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Two Rooms in Davis

Theatre Review by Cindy Pierre

From top to Bottom: Anne Fidler, Tim Scott, Jennifer Dees and Penny Bittone.
Photo by Brad Saville.

A little debauchery never hurt anyone, right? That seems to be the consensus in Brad Saville's partner-swapping drama, Two Rooms in Davis (Davis, West Virginia), until the characters realize that they don't have equal footing. And with an estimated population of 600 in Davis, four manage to create enough drama, turmoil and tragedy at a bed and breakfast to rival the town's three real resident sex offenders.

Successful Filmmaker Dante (a brooding Tim Scott) and his alcoholic, contradictory wife Sara (a relaxed, youthful Anne Fidler), 11 years his junior, have moved from exciting New York to mountainous, ski-town Davis to encourage his creativity. Unfortunately, boredom with her husband's selfishness and the rural life seeps in fast for Sara, and she is soon picking fights with him for sport and exercise. These arguments, well-written by Saville but sluggish in revelation and momentum, disclose the dynamics of their relationship: he defines her, while his art defines him, but she has grown tired of her smaller ration of love. Consequently, she also blames her husband for an abortion that left her barren several years ago when he was a struggling artist.

The conversation drones on until the introduction of the retarded theme: prearranged wife swapping of an indeterminate nature with another adventurous couple, wall street hotshot Kennedy (an impassioned Penny Bittone) and his spouse Patricia (entertaining Jennifer Dees), a vampy, aspiring actress. Although Bittone and Dees are more engaging than Scott and Fidler during their equally long and tedious banter, the dynamic of their relationship is similar: an imbalance of love between the self-absorbed artist and the devotee. Unlike novice swingers Dante and Sara however, Kennedy and Patricia are veterans of this indulgent activity. However, this time the swapping has an alternate purpose that extends beyond the excitement of a new, though temporary lover, and Kennedy is the only one that didn't get the memo. The tip, provided by a teary Sara after relations, proves to be more than Kennedy can bear with disastrous consequences.

Without revealing too much of the plot, practical situations are not one of Saville's strongest suits in Two Rooms in Davis. The surprise that serves as the foundation of this play is convoluted. The motivations of Sara, Dante and Patricia to partake in the swinging are sound, but the way Saville chooses to unite their efforts is unbelievable. Several, more economical scenarios can be imagined as resolutions for each of the characters' motivations, and as a result, the one offered here is immediately rejectable. No details are provided about how this couple met each other's acquaintance, and no background is provided for Patricia and Kennedy's purpose in Davis. The play, at nearly two hours in running time without intermission, consists of four talky, lengthy scenes with very little visual (except for the scantily clad cast) or intellectual stimulus. The conversations between the swapped couples are particularly tiresome because the "transactions" are supposed to occur swiftly and without ruffles.

Under Saville's direction, the cast deliver good performances, but are hampered by too much to say and too little to do. The cinematic style used to dramatize the climax from two different perspectives is effective, but it is difficult to discern why the climax transpires so easily. The lighting design, complete with lamp illumination as well as overhead lights, is practical for the production's sake, but not when measured against reality. And reality cannot be escaped when there is smoking, coke snorting, and drinking from bottles filled with liquids that look suspiciously like the real liquors.

Two Rooms in Davis is a look at what happens to a polyamorous situation taken to the extreme, but it lacks substantiation and the theatricality that one would normally associate with such fare.

Two Rooms in Davis
Through September 30
Richmond Shepard Theatre, 309 East 26th Street
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Theatermania

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