Review: THE ROOMMATE at Theatre Artists Studio

The must-see production runs through May 7th at Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale, AZ.

Review: A SOLDIERS PLAY at ASU Gammage

Jen Silverman's star as a playwright has been in ascendance since 2018 when she knocked Off-Broadway audiences and critics off their seats with Collective rage: a play in 5 Betties; in essence, a queer and occasionally hazardous exploration; do you remember when you were in middle school and you read about Shackleton and how he explored the Antarctic? Imagine the Antarctic as a pussy and it's sort of like that.

That title, as elongated and quirky as it is, revealed the impulses of a revolutionary who was in the self-described business of constructive craziness. Her other plays (with tamer titles like The Moors, Phoebe in Winter, and Wink) have followed suit, often exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and power dynamics. It is fair to say that she is a creative subversive, if by that we mean that she aims to tip convention upside down and disrupt the way we see human relationships.

That's certainly the case in THE ROOMMATE, which opened on April 21st and runs through May 7th at Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale.

The play centers around two middle-aged women, Sharon (Jodie Weiss) and Robyn (Debra K. Stevens), who become roommates in a small Iowa town.

At first glance, it may appear that the play is tackling the subject of mid-life crises, but, as it progresses, something deeper and more unsettling is in the works. Despite their vastly different backgrounds and personalities, Sharon and Robyn form an unlikely bond as they reveal their innermost secrets and desires to one another.

Stevens and Weiss deliver stellar performances, each bringing a sense of authenticity and emotional depth to her role and creating two fully realized, nuanced, and relatable characters. Their chemistry on stage is palpable and electric. The result is one of the more memorable and dynamic Productions of the theatre season.

Add to the equation Silverman's sharp and witty writing, filled with one-liners and poignant moments of reflection, all delivered with clarity and emotional force by both performers.

Among these one-liners, one line stands out as the thematic message of the play ~ a clue to the playwright's subversive intentions and the driving force behind the evolution of the two characters.

As the two proceed with their self-introductions, Sharon (a one-time slam poet and ostensibly a multi-talented entrepreneurial sort, now on the run from her life in the Bronx) remarks that "I guess everybody wants to start over. Just burn it down and start over." Robyn (the divorced housewife left to ponder the meaning of her life and suddenly attracted by Sharon's boldness) replies: "All first poems are bad, but there is a great liberty in being bad."

"There is a great liberty in being bad." It's the bold message of the play and a call for personal liberation.

In the hands of Patti Suarez's astute and steady direction, the play is marked by brisk pacing. The wholesome set design and brisk lighting is a smart contrast to the dark undertones and emotional ripples of the roommates. Quite to the point, Suarez, Stevens, and Weiss have delivered a home run ~ a must-see!

THE ROOMMATE runs through May 7th at The Studio in Scottsdale.

Theatre Artists Studio ~ 4848 E. Cactus Road, Suite 406, Scottsdale, AZ ~ 602-765-0120 ~ https://www.thestudiophx.org/

Photo credit to Bill Phillips ~ L to R: Weiss, Stevens



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From This Author - Herbert Paine

Herb Paine ~ Herb has served as Senior Contributing Editor and lead reviewer for BWW's Phoenix Metro Region since 2014. He has been acclaimed as BEST THEATRE CRITIC by PHOENIX magazine&#... (read more about this author)

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