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Review: NIGHT IS A ROOM Explores A Delicate Subject With Clunky Dramatics

Bill Heck and Dagmara Dominczyk
(Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

It's not unusual for audience members to be seen checking their cell phones at a play's intermission, but it's a safe bet that many of the customers at Naomi Wallace's NIGHT IS A ROOM will spend the break looking up something that critics have been asked not to mention in their reviews.

The information being withheld is the major plot point, introduced a little after the middle of the first act, so if this write-up seems a bit incomplete, it's out of respect for wishes that the audience members be allowed to discover it for themselves.

The title is taken from poet William Carlos Williams' "Complaint" ("Night is a room / darkened for lovers"), and the play is set in present-day Leeds, England.

With his adoptive parents passed away, Liana (Dagmara Dominczyk) wants to surprise her husband Marcus (Bill Heck) with a fortieth birthday present by finding his birth mother, Doré (Ann Dowd), who had him when she was fifteen.

It isn't very long before that which will not be revealed enters into the picture and while a deeper play that treats the subject with sensitivity could be effective, NIGHT IS A ROOM is so heavy-handedly written and loaded with bombastically dramatic situations that at this past Saturday's matinee a great deal of the audience was laughing out loud during scenes that were surely meant to be taken seriously.

Ann Dowd, Dagmara Dominczyk
and Bill Heck
(Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

The fact that director Bill Rauch's cast is so good, and so honestly committed to the material, only makes the script's clunkiness more apparent.

This is especially true of Dominczyk, who is required to have an orgasm on stage after being manually stimulated for what seems like a minute at most, engage in ridiculous acts of violence and brag about the tightness of her ass. At least the task of urinating on stage is given to someone else.

At that matinee's curtain call, Dominczyk smiled and yelled out to the respectfully applauding audience, "Did you like it?" The slight rise in volume seemed an act of kindness and appreciation for the blameless cast.

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