Received well in New York (in 2003 at the TriBeCa Playhouse and at the Beckett Theatre last March), Tristine Skyler's The Moonlight Room is on its way to becoming a popular regional play. Topical, with one set and a cast of five, there are several appealing aspects from a producing standpoint, but the quality of the writing and thought-provoking topical situations are even better reasons.
The Moonlight Room offers a snapshot view of the lives of three urban teenagers and their parents. The entire play takes place during one long night in a New York hospital emergency room waiting area. It is a pivotal time period in the lives of the three middle-class adolescents; sixteen-year-olds Sal Kelly (Lydia Burns) and Joshua (John Magaro) wait anxiously for news of their friend, Lightfield (not seen on stage), who has been brought here due to a drug overdose. All three have different family situations, each one broken in one way or another. Sal's father has abandoned her and her mother (Laurie Klatscher), and Mrs. Kelly has not adjusted well. Lightfield's mother is dead, and his father (played by Ray Anthony Thomas) is still grieving. Joshua and his family are the most fractured of all, and the situation is dire. Sal tries to hold everything together, but she cannot save both of her friends.
Lydia Burns is excellent as Sal, a compassionate young woman, frustrated by her mother's dwelling on the past. Sal struggles to tolerate and understand her mother, while asserting her emerging independence. It's a scary world Sal is entering, and Burns conveys the conflict and balance well. Though Skyler's words deserve most of the credit for how authentic these characters are, Burns can also be credited with creating a very believable character. John Magaro does well, too, but may play the restlessness of his character a bit too broadly at times. Still, the two - who have the lion's share of dialog and focus - work very well together and keep our interest, even during the lengthy expository first act.
The other three performers provide good support. Laurie Klatscher shows her anxiety without seeming completely lost; Ray Anthony Thomas shows how Mr. Wells' grief has occupied him to the point that, though he cares deeply for his son, he is bewildered as he comes to realize the current situation and is distraught as he tries to deal with it. Jarrod DiGiorgi plays Joshua's doctor step-brother, who visits the waiting room to try to help with the situation. DiGiorgi succeeds in providing some comic relief, though it is tragic comic relief as Adam is so disconnected from his younger brother, he can't keep Joshua from becoming more separate from the family. All three of these family members care very much - but not all can succeed in holding their families together through the bumpy time of adolescence.
Abigail Hart Gray's set is well done; we can experience the starkness of the waiting room, and feel the loneliness of those who wait, as hospital staff are seen walking past the room, though smoked glass walls.
Tristine Skyler's Moonlight Room shows how treacherous the road to adulthood can be. All teens and parents have difficulties, and in many cases, it is luck and maintaining the correct distance that prevent the difficulties from being disastrous. Careful to not venture into the stereotypical or the unbelievable, Skyler presents an authentic view of three such scenarios.
This regional premiere of The Moonlight Room runs through December 12 in the City's Hamburg Studio theatre. For ticket information, call 412-431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org.