Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The aesthetic value of Cindy Lou Johnson's Brilliant Traces brings to mind a song by Air Supply called "Two Less Lonely People in the World." There's a lyric in the song that goes, "in my life when everything is wrong, something finally went right!" This production at the Hollywood Playhouse shows that even though there may be something wrong with the picture, the right players can fit the bill for the material, and even though the characters may be together, they may still be lonely just the same.
The place is Alaska. A young woman named Rosannah (Deborah L. Sherman) braves a snowstorm in her wedding dress to arrive at the doorstep of a sleeping recluse named Henry (Peter Paul DeLeo). As she shivers mercilessly, Rosannah rambles on about who she is and how she came to be, all the while taking swigs of Henry's whiskey. During her fearless diatribe, she suddenly passes out. Henry then removes her dirty, wet clothes and proceeds to bathe her for an ungodly long period of time.
A couple of days pass, and Rosannah comes to. What we then encounter are two people who are coming from different sides of the world bringing all their baggage to the table. Rosannah weaves the sordid tale of her impending nuptials. She left her groom standing at the altar, and claims that she has never been grounded; she has been floating through life without any foundations since childhood.
Henry's tragedy comes to light later. He became solitarily confined to a cabin, but is intrigued as to why Rosannah has arrived in his domicile in the middle of a blizzard. Yet he doesn't let her go when she is ready to confront the hail that awaits. They argue over whose issues are more tragic and who is willing to save the other from impending doom. This battle of wills runs for 90 minutes without intermission reaching a puzzling climax.
Johnson has the basics right in line: two lost souls meet each other for the first time, both have troubled pasts that they are running away from, yet they are willing to knock heads until they reach a compromise, Henry's overly long cleansing of Rosannah notwithstanding. But the journey to that negotiation is where the play stumbles. The characters seem like they'd rather open old wounds and recite powerful speeches than deal with each other. Johnson wrote great monologues to use for workshop classes, but the dialogue to tie it all in is missing.
We welcome Deborah Sherman back to Broward County, though. Ever since her South Florida debut here three years ago, Sherman has become a dynamic talent who is always fascinating to watch. She continues to be a presence to behold with every character she steps into, and Rosannah is no exception. Sherman's portrayal is quirky at times, but she also brings a fire that is yearning to be quenched. Rosannah may have the deeper scars, and Sherman unloads the gamut of emotions to give Rosanna deeper meaning.
Peter Paul DeLeo has played Henry in a previous incarnation. He comes back to the role a decade later with a new sense of maturity. When Henry tries to tame Rosannah, DeLeo gives a moving performance. But when Henry unleashes his own anger, DeLeo controls the stage like a wounded lion still clinging to his throne.
Director John Rodaz conspired with DeLeo on the previous incarnation and made sure he chose the right players for this new rendition. Rodaz also enlightens the actors with a ground rule: never upstage each other. Chemistry is an important factor in two person plays, and Sherman and DeLeo makes the dance look nearly flawless.
Tyler Smith's set is breath taking: a wooden cabin hovering over the audience like a monster. Darin Jones' lighting complements Smith's set with its dark mood while shrouds of light seeps through the panels.
Brilliant Traces is far from the adjective that is in the title, but it can be humorous and powerful at times. With the right duo, the play resonates better and the message is not lost. This will conclude the season on June 6th at Hollywood Playhouse, 2640 Washington Street. For tickets, please call (954) 922-0404 or www.hollywoodplayhouse.com.
HOLLYWOOD PLAYHOUSE - Brilliant Traces
Starring Peter Paul DeLeo and Deborah L. Sherman
Assistant Director: Michelle Wargacki
Set Design: Tyler Smith
Directed by John Rodaz
-- Kevin Johnson