Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Rooms: A Rock Romance
This musical has superficial similarities to tick, tick ... BOOM!, the autobiographical early work by Jonathan Larson, the late creator of Rent, which MetroStage presented last season. However, as far as having a propulsive dramatic arc and involving characters, Rooms is the better work.
The 80-minute musical, performed without intermission, follows two musically talented young people in Glasgow, Scotland: upper-middle-class Jewish Monica P. Miller (Natascia Diaz), an ambitious singer and songwriter, and working-class Catholic Ian Wallace (Doug Kreeger), a skilled guitarist who seldom leaves his room. They originally meet to compose a song for a bat mitzvah party (the song, "Scottish Jewish Princess," is just one of many that brings the house down), then get an opportunity to head to London and New York City as aspiring punk rockers.
The two actors give luminous performances, with the strong support of director Scott Schwartz. Diaz has the flashier role and audiences can't take their eyes off her, whether Monica is breaking out her rock-star fantasy in the privacy of her bedroom or dealing with the negatives of her relationship with Ian. Kreeger's character is more withdrawn and self-contained, but when his character finally confronts his demons, it's vibrantly cathartic.
Scenic designer Adam Koch has created a cleverly minimal set that uses a single door on wheels, two chairs and a few platforms to imaginative effect. Alejo Vietti's costume designs embody the excesses of punk style with humor, specifically Monica's Union Jack tank top festooned with safety pins.
The five-piece rock band conducted by Jenny Cartney stays onstage throughout the production and provides an additional boost to the intensity of the performances.
MetroStage is co-producing Rooms with the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, where the production will be presented after it closes in Alexandria.