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Review Roundup: Critics Weigh in on IS THIS A ROOM

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Is This A Room

A true story, still unfolding. June 3, 2017. A 25-year-old former Air Force linguist named Reality Winner is surprised at her home by the FBI, interrogated, and then charged with leaking evidence of Russian interference in U.S elections. Reality remains in jail with a record-breaking sentence. The FBI transcript of her interrogation is the heart of Is This A Room, conceived as a play and directed by Obie Award-winner Tina Satter, in which an extraordinary human drama unfolds between the complex and witty Reality, and the agents who question her. As Reality's autonomy shrinks before her eyes, a simmering real-life thriller emerges, asking what it is to have honor in this American moment, and how the personal can reverberate globally.

Let's see what the critics had to say...


Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: There's no plot, in the traditional sense, just the fascinating conflict between the two agents, who, while continually reminding their suspect that she's under no obligation to talk, are trying to convince her to say what they need her to say, and Winner, who is trying to determine what the men already know and how she can give them information without incriminating herself.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: There has been no attempt here to replicate physically the real setting for this encounter - Parker Lutz's set is an anonymous, neutral-colored platform - and yet I felt I could see Reality's house as clearly as if I were watching a film. Thomas Dunn's lighting, Enver Chakartash's costumes, and Lee Kinney and Sanae Yamada's subliminal, gut-clutching sound design summon an acute sense of place and time.

Helen Shaw, Vulture: I was happy to see that even without the element of surprise, Is This A Room punches hard. Sophocles couldn't devise a better tragedy (a woman, preoccupied with good citizenship and right action, walks backwards into danger), and we usually have to look to the Coen brothers for this kind of awkward comedy (Simpson's nerdball FBI dad is Fargo crossed with Ed Grimley). Hell, you'd need to ask Kafka to come up with a character and a setting this brilliantly perverse-the uptalking girl, wearing Pikachu sneakers, terrified that somehow she's going to frighten the trio of armed men. Yet this is reality, right? This is Reality.

Elizabeth Foster, New York Theatre Guide: If you were only going to go to one play the rest of the year make it this one. The issues raised are too important not to be a part of the conversation. Remember as we discuss and analyze events, Winner is doing the same behind bars. There are always two tracks being played, one in the mind of Winner and that which she exposes through careful semantics.

Deb Miller, DC Metro Arts: Emily Davis turns in a psychologically and emotionally exacting characterization of Reality, capturing her growing anxiety in the uncomfortable situation of one lone young woman surrounded by three men who are there with the intent of intimidating her and eliciting a confession. Under Satter's potent direction, her expressive body language speaks volumes, as she wrings her hands, shakes her leg, turns her head, and avoids eye contact with her interrogators.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Satter often brings the men so close to Davis that the actors inhale each other's breath. It's a harrowing situation, and the four actors handle the circuitous, often-repetitious dialogue as if it were a new, good play by David Mamet. But the agents' physical proximity to Winner contradicts the text, which shows the men's extreme attention to strict protocol. They're careful to the point of being persnickety in the handling of their duties, regardless of what you think of those duties.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: There is uncomfortable accuser-accused levity over pets, and how to deal with a cat who won't come out from under the bed. The piece is fascinating, and the actors expertly negotiate its odd contours and gaps, but we come away knowing too little about Reality Winner, and whatever she did or didn't do.

Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: Of course, not everyone will be sympathetic to Winner's story. Others will wonder why Winner remains in prison today. And some viewers will prefer a more conclusive ending, although existence is seldom so tidy. Regardless, Is This A Room packs a sharp slice of real life that gives audiences something current and substantial to chew over afterwards.

Adam Feldman, TimeOut: Davis gives a performance of heart-wrenching rawness and lucidity; as you watch her dissolve from the inside, what emerges with force is a sympathetic and specific portrait of a young woman trying to do the right thing in a very wrong time. Satter doesn't have to add very much. Reality is interesting enough.

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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