Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Rathmines Road
Theatre Artists Studio
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of Miss Saigon


Larah Pawlowski, Benjamin Rojek, Anne Vogel,
Tom Koelbel and Lidia Lei Koelbel

Photo by Mark Gluckman
With the rise of the #metoo movement over the past few years, many women have come forward to speak out about how they were victims of sexual harassment, assault and rape. While their stories are emotionally heartbreaking, there are also some people who question their motives or how truthful their memories are and also wonder why they didn't speak out right after the incident happened instead of waiting years or even decades later to bring up the horrific incidents of their past. Deirdre Kinahan's 2018 play Rathmines Road, is a painful reminder of the reality of these situations and why so many women choose not to speak out about these events right after they happen. The piece makes its American premiere at Theatre Artists Studio in a moving production with an emotionally fraught, believable, and heart-wrenching performance by Larah Pawlowski as a woman confronted by memories from her past.

The story takes place over one night in a home in a small town in Ireland where Sandra grew up. She and her husband Ray have come from London for a short visit. Since Sandra's mother has recently passed away, she is thinking of selling her family home and has contacted Linda, an old school friend who is an estate agent, to stop by to determine the value of the house. Dairne, another friend from Sandra's past whom she hasn't seen in a long time, also comes by to visit. When Linda unexpectedly brings her husband Eddie with her, it brings to the surface a very painful memory of something Sandra experienced more than 20 years before in a house on Rathmines Road.

Kinahan has expertly crafted what appears on the surface to be a fairly simple drama with clearly defined characters, but also includes some very complex situations. The plot beautifully weaves together the reasons why some people choose to run away from where they grew up in order to leave painful memories behind with how the weight of the choices people make in dealing with memories from their past bears down upon them. Kinahan also expertly depicts how someone reconciles the ramifications of the choices they make in determining how much of their past they want to be known by those they love, as it could drastically change all of their lives forever. It is also a play that, while it may be difficult to watch at times, is riveting in its timeliness, while also being heartbreaking in its painful though somewhat uncertain conclusion.

Under Judy Rollings' astute direction, the cast create believable and fairly complex characters. Larah Pawlowski is superb as Sandra, expertly depicting the range of emotions, including fear, grief and pain, the character goes through when confronted with seeing Eddie again. Pawlowski also makes us fully see the inner turmoil Sandra experiences in sorting through the various choices she has and the decision she must make in dealing with how much of her past she wants to speak about. It's a well-acted, layered, realistic performance full of nuance and emotion. Also, her Irish accent is spot on.

The rest of the cast are all very good and up to the challenges of the script and in playing characters that aren't entirely perfect. Tom Koelbel is exceptional in showing how Ray struggles with understanding not just the facts of Sandra's past but also with trying to comprehend why she would choose to hide the events from him. As Dairne, Lidia Lei Koelbel is confident as the old friend of Sandra who has secrets as well. Sandra was Dairne's guardian angel when they were younger and, even though they drifted apart over the years, Koelbel shows how Dairne is trying with compassion and strength to serve that role for Sandra now. Anne Vogel is steadfast and firm as Linda; her monologue about how women have to fight to survive is expertly delivered. While Eddie is the antagonist of the piece, Benjamin Rojek instills him with some sympathy for the events of his past.

The set design by Mark Baris and Judy Rollings creates the intimate, front sitting room of Sandra's home, though it seems to be in fairly good condition for a house that is often talked about as having seen better days. Stacey Walston's lighting works well to depict the various times of day in the plot as well as to portray the shifting focus in the choices Sandra makes. The sound design by Tony Robinson is okay in underscoring the flashback memories in Sandra's mind, though the volume is a bit loud and distracting and the length of these moments a bit too long.

"It felt like a curse," Sandra says when asked why she kept the events of her past to herself for so long. In Deirdre Kinahan's Rathmines Road, we get a clear understanding why many victims of sexual harassment and assault choose to keep the events to themselves, even if it means it's a weight or curse they carry around with them for the rest of the lives. Theatre Artists Studio's American premiere of Kinahan's play is an emotionally moving presentation of a relevant drama that touches upon some very important issues.

Theatre Artists Studio's Rathmines Road runs through October 20, 2019, at 4848 East Cactus Road, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, visit www.TheStudioPHX.org or call 602-765-0120.

Director: Judy Rollings
Set Design: Mark Baris and Judy Rollings
Lighting Design: Stacey Walston
Sound Design: Tony Robinson

Cast:
Sandra: Larah Pawlowski
Eddie: Benjamin Rojek
Ray: Tom Koelbel
Dairne: Lidia Lei Koelbel
Linda: Anne Vogel


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