BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Presents Deirdre Kinahan's RATHMINES ROAD
Larah Pawlowski seethes in a pressure-cooker of a performance as Sandra, a woman whose long-suppressed memory of one night's ordeal is unlocked during an evening of explosive confrontations.
However, in Deirdre Kinahan's cathartic play, RATHMINES ROAD (at Theatre Artists Studio through October 20th), no character is left untouched by Sandra's torment, nor are the salient issues of rape, gender discrimination, and accountability left unaddressed. The Dublin-based playwright, acclaimed for her intense personal dramas, has guaranteed an evening of high stakes encounters ~ and the cast of The Studio delivers on that guarantee.
As the play opens, Sandra and her husband Ray (Tom Koelbel) are enjoying the afterglow of togetherness in the living room of her deceased mother's home. It is a moment of levity that swiftly switches off as Ray leaves the room and Sandra utters the line that propels the play's action: "What the fuck happened here tonight?' That is the question, and the curious thing is that the answer lies in Sandra's imagining of the unfolding revelations of the night.
What ensues is a gathering that involves first the unexpected visit of Sandra's best friend, once David and now transformed as Dairne (Lidia Lei Koelbel). Then, there's the arrival of Linda (Anne Vogel in an overall powerhouse performance), the realtor who's been charged to sell the family house, and her husband Eddie (Benjamin Rojek).
As soon as Sandra flinches at the familiarity of Eddie's face, there can be no surprise at what's coming. The playwright has mapped out the course of the evening's events with an eye toward revealing the complexities of allegations and denials ~ a dance of convictions and emotions that has been paralleled in and dominated the news of recent times.
Overwrought does not begin to describe the intensity of Sandra's retreat into despair and confusion at the sight of her rapist. When she does at last erupt into a defiant accusation of Eddie's violation, the repercussions ripple into a tidal wave of defenses and recriminations that ensnares all parties. Dairne's transformation is not spared a belittling takedown by Linda. Linda's fierce plea that her family be spared the embarrassment of public shame is matched only by her ireful acknowledgement of Eddie's true nature. Ray is bewildered and infuriated that his true love has concealed this pivotal moment of her life.
There's anger and tension in the air of this bruising drama, sensitively directed by Judy Rollings, that certainly will leave the audience breathless, troubled, and perhaps unsatisfied, which really may be all together fitting as such situations never do really leave us warm and cuddly. It's a real-world disaster of pain and suffering. If there's a problem at all with the play's outcome, it's that the author has not yielded a necessarily satisfactory conclusion. We're left to be satisfied with the equivalent of a primal scream and an apology, but the pain and suffering hover in the air well beyond Sandra and Ray's accommodation.
RATHMINES ROAD runs through October 20th at The Studio in Scottsdale, AZ.
Photo credit to Mark Glickman ~ L to R: Larah Pawlowski, Benjamin Rojek, Anne Vogel, Tom Koelbel and Lidia Lei Koelbel