Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Speaking in Tongues
At first it is hard to tell if Round House Theatre's production of Speaking in Tonguesis telling one story or multiple ones. However, this unusual play by Andrew Bovell is more than just a simple story about individuals. The piece exposes a bigger picture. It is one that proves members of our society are not as removed from each other as they think.
The play opens with two couples. The first pair is named Leon and Jane and the second couple is Pete and Sonja. Both couples are about to embark on their first one-night stand. There is only one hitch - Leon is married to Sonja and Pete is married to Jane.
When watching this play, one can't help but be reminded of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation. Both plays feature characters that spend time searching within while finding connections in unlikely places. Ultimately, Speaking in Tongues conveys how the actions of one person can potentially impact someone as remote as a random stranger.
Tongues drives this message home in a manner that is much more heavy handed than Six Degrees. At times if feels a bit like overkill. It is also a bit frustrating because as the play progresses, there is nothing new left to discover. This happens despite the fact that additional characters are introduced in the second act. It turns out to be just different characters relating the same message that was expressed in the first act. The piece is never given the opportunity to develop.
That is not to say the show isn't engrossing. Andrew Bovell's dialogue takes some interesting forms and the show as a whole moves well. The direction by Lou Jacob is as fluid as the rotating set by scenic designer, James Kronzer.
Even the actors move effortlessly. The four person cast transitions smoothly from scene to scene and character to character. Round House veterans Marty Lodge and Jane Beard have proven their versatility in past productions by playing a host of different characters in The Pavillion and Mystery School, respectively. Once again, they show off their fine acting skills by playing more than one role. They handle their individual characters well and their overall performances are outstanding.
Elizabeth Long and Andrew Long complete the cast. These newcomers to the Round House are quite skilled. Elizabeth Long's portrayal of Sonja exhibits the ferocity and underlying weakness of the character. As Pete, Andrew Long has some very good moments but he really comes into his own in the second act when he portrays John, the uptight husband of a missing woman.
The lighting by Daniel MacLean Wagner is quite dynamic and Rosemary Pardee's costumes work well for each character. There is one element that does not work well - the wigs. Unfortunately, they look incredibly artificial and, in turn, are distracting.
Speaking in Tongues is not a great play, but it is a good play. It attempts to be provocative and at times it succeeds. However, the real triumph of this production is that of the cast, director and designers. Their creation is one of focus, energy and style. Those components alone are what make Speaking in Tongues so intriguing. Speaking in Tongues runs through April 27th.
Round House Theatre
Jane/Valerie: Jane Beard