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Boston by Suzanne Bixby

The Moonlight Room

The Moonlight Room
Tracee Chimo and
Ian Michaels

SpeakEasy Stage Company is back in its "old room," the BCA Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, for the New England premiere of The Moonlight Room, and it's a nice fit. Director Paul Melone and set designer Jenna McFarland use the intimacy and slightly odd shape of the space to their advantage, skillfully invoking a small adjunct waiting room a few corridors removed from a presumably bustling NYC emergency room.

Watched over by a pair of Pepsi machines sometimes providing more comfort than the responsible adults in their lives, Sal (Tracee Chimo) and Josh (Ian Michaels) struggle for 24 hours to keep their lives from spinning any more out of control. When we tune in, this pair of teens is waiting for an encouraging report on the condition of their friend, the apparently innocent recipient of too much backstage hospitality at a Saturday night concert.

As Sal's 3 a.m. curfew looms large and another menacing late night drama unfolds in Central Park via Josh's cell phone, playwright Tristine Skyler reveals soon enough that these privileged teens were scarred by a gamut of parental missteps long before drug overdoses and illegal guns entered the picture.

What makes this play tick despite Sklyer's reliance on a preponderance of mundane "back stories," is her ear for authentic dialogue and considerable skill using it effectively. This facility, along with terrific performances from Chimo (an experienced actress in her mid-twenties who convincingly channels a 16-year-old) and Michaels (a recent high school graduate making his nicely guided professional debut), rope us in for the first third of the play and keep us hooked - until the adults put in appearances and we have to get down to what the play's really about.

As terrific as Cheryl McMahon's finely honed portrayal of Mrs. Kelley is, nothing could match what the kids' earlier conversation has already conjured up about Sal's unfortunate mother. And, as welcome as the comic relief is when Josh's "half stepbrother" puts in an appearance to explain the situation from a medical student's perspective, not even David Krinitt can save us from the playwright's even more serious misstep in the second half of the play.

Josh is so culpable for the situation at hand and is so compellingly the one who's most "at risk," that his long hiatus after intermission simply can't be justified. The steam goes out of the play and the most tenuous issues out on the table are sidestepped.

A less serious but still pesky structural problem - perhaps somewhat the fault of Melone, lighting designer Seth Reiser or even the Pepsi gods - is the awkwardness of the blackouts denoting passages of time. The first one was so unexpected, I thought that the power had gone out. I also question why Sal doesn't change her clothes when she goes home for a while since she complains so vehemently about her mother wearing the same outfit for days on end. A fresh T-shirt would also help denote the longer break in time at this point in the play.

Although the play falters, the performers and the overall quality of the production are compelling reasons to see The Moonlight Room. And, despite the fact that Sal has a 3 a.m. curfew and is allowed to drive her mother's car to Hoboken, this is something I'd gladly take my 15 and 17-year-old nieces to see.

The Moonlight Room now through February 19th presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the BCA Theater, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. in Boston's South End. Performances are Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8:00pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 4 p.m. & 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are priced at $35.00 - $40.00 depending on the performance with a $5 discount for seniors. Student Rush is $20 with a valid college ID, at the box office only, one hour before curtain, subject to availability. The BCA box office phone is 617-933-8600. For more information about SpeakEasy Stage Company go to www.speakeasystage.com. To order tickets online visit: www.BostonTheatreScene.com.


Photo: Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo @2005


Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Boston area.



- Suzanne Bixby



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