Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Set in Iowa, on an invitingly designed set by Dane Laffrey of the kitchen and dining room areas of Sharon's home, The Roommate starts out quite well, with the two women gradually getting to know each other. Without giving away too much, the play really displays Sharon's emergence into a somewhat wild new life, as spurred on by Robyn's less than legal lifestyle. To reveal any more of what happens in this play would ruin the numerous surprises that pop up during the show. Suffice it is to say that both characters are forever changed for having known each other, and The Roommate offers quite a good time for those who are willing to suspend some disbelief during the show's hour and forty minute running time.
One of the best qualities of Jen Silverman's play is her knack for giving her characters terrific dialogue, which helps the two actresses play off of each other wonderfully. As Sharon, Linda Powell presents a woman who has lived a somewhat sheltered life, with an ex-husband and a grown son who isn't in frequent contact with her. When the extremely unorthodox Robyn arrives as the new roommate, it almost lets Sharon have the opportunity to get out of her own shell and live the kind of life she has never had before, for better or for worse.
Linda Powell's Sharon manages to truly blossom as the play gets zanier and zanier. And Tasha Lawrence's Robyn is almost going the other way: having lived a life on the edge, she is trying to tame everything down by moving from the Bronx to her new residence in Iowa. When these two characters meet and get to really know each other, it ignites a new relationship between the two that can go slightly off the rails.
There are more than a few situations in the show which simply don't ring true, and looking back at the action of the show after it is over, it's easy to pick this play apart. Still, when watching The Roommate, each scene offers so much mirth and laughter, those missteps may be somewhat overlooked. Anita Yavich's costume design seems just right, with the two characters first appearing as polar opposites. The lighting design by Reza Behjat is apt and the production's use of different songs throughout works very well.
The Roommate at Long Wharf Theatre is ultimately a bit of a lark and a demonstration of what can happen when one steps out of one's comfort zone. And, as unlikely as some of the situations seem during the course of the show, if an audience member can go with this show's slightly crazy plot, there are many pleasures to be had. Just don't analyze the play too closely as it is going along.
The Roommate, through November 4, 2018, at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Dr., New Haven CT. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.