BWW Review: THE ROOMMATE at Long Wharf
Here's an odd couple for you. Warm, inviting, trusting Midwesterner Sharon (Linda Powell) and shadowy, cautious, tough-as-nails Robyn (Tasha Lawrence), whose last known residence was The Bronx. One suspects that Sharon, a 50something divorcee could use some extra money and, perhaps, some company. Robyn, also a divorcee and now self-proclaimed lesbian, needs some space from her shady past. Both have varying estranged relationships with their children (voiceovers by Isaac Bloodworth as Sharon's son and Moira Malone as Robyn's daughter).
Jen Silverman's play, which is performed without an intermission, moves quickly from its strong beginning to its incredulous end. Sharon, curious about her roommate, opens one of her boxes and finds many drivers licenses with variations of Robyn's names and some others. Robyn is not a serial killer, but she is a serial scam artist. Sharon is inexplicably fascinated by that, to the point where she wants lessons on how to rob people from the comfort of her home. Robyn, meanwhile, is torn between survival (which includes growing and selling marijuana as "medicinal herbs") and trying to make her daughter believe that she is leading the life of an honest person.
Here's the tricky part. There are a lot of clunks and gaps in the way the characters develop during the short play and a few things that lack credibility. It is hard to imagine that Sharon would have been so bored and lonely that turning to a life of crime would fulfill her. And it's common knowledge that people usually get high the first time they try pot. This is 2018, and neither character has a cell phone. While Robyn is reluctantly teaching her eager student to con people out of money by telephone, she fails to mention that there is caller ID. And though Sharon advertised for a roommate and didn't even think of doing a background check, she was reluctant to create a profile for online dating. Just sayin'.
That said, the show is absorbing, mostly because of Linda Powell's delightful interpretation of Sharon. Watching this play feels as if you're hanging out with your new best friend. Tasha Lawrence is fascinating as the kind of person your mother warned you about. Their chemistry is terrific. Also terrific are Dane Laffrey's set design of a spacious, magazine worthy house and Reza Behjat's flawless lighting. Love, love, love Claire Zoghb's program cover, with the teasing picture of a woman baking and the warning of pot.