J. A. Di Bello’s Review of The Roommate

June 21, 2019

Shadowland Stages


     It’s a long ride from The Bronx to Iowa City, Iowa. And either by design or happenstance, Jen Silveman’s The Roommate began its run at the Shadowland Stages Theatre in Ellenville on the first evening of the 2019 summer, the day of the solstice. The events of this play are set in the destination mentioned, “A big old house in Iowa City,” Iowa.

Abigail Soloman is a stunning actor as she portrays the owner of the big old house. She has the appropriate pace and represents a mid-western awareness or lack thereof to an appropriate degree of credibility, as she represents the character of Sharon.   Opposite her in this two-person play is Dana Smith-Croll, as Robyn. whose ability to hold the stage is evident as she assertively distributes her “Bronxness” with authority.  Josh Christiansen, Scenic Designer, has created with the capable assistance of theatre’s carpenter, Shae Rodgers, a spacious and balanced set. It’s the kitchen that adeqquately serves as the focal point of this developing narrative.

There is an effort to include and distinguish contemporary issues early in this modern relationship. As the two women discuss their individual backgrounds and concerns with sexual identity, the concepts and circumstances of LGBT are treated with dignity and in a manner that seems quite appropriate for the circumstances given.

And speaking of narrative, this initially interesting story relates a continuing account of two lonely, relatively bright, articulate women who are lost somewhere in their mid-50s.   In that case, the initial premise of a divorced owner of a large house seeking a female border is fertile ground for a sit-com, with a humor-filled cultural gap, e.g., Iowa City vs. Bronx, NY.  It is all quite credible and anxiously anticipated.

However, playwright, Jen Silverman while addressing the content of The Roommate, is noted to have said, “The play is often funny, but don’t think of it as a pure comedy. The humor comes from a dark and often lonely place, …” Ms. Silverman’s statement is in reality an understatement; for the chuckles are few and the laughs sparse.  It’s all quite sad.

As the assembled watch Sharon and Robyn’s self-imposed solitude become dark and ominous, Robyn’s comment at the end of the first scene takes on a new significance, when Sharon delivers the exact same line at the play’s conclusion. “There’s a great liberty in being bad.” Despite the abundance of light associated with a solstice, it doesn’t happen in Iowa City, Iowa.  Aside from loneliness, the purpose of the play’s negativity “being bad” is not revealed. Unless, however, Silverman is promoting negativity for its own devious purpose. Then the iconic shrug-of-the-shoulders asking “Why?” will be The Roommate’s epitaph. 

The Roommate will continue it run at the Shadowland Stges in Ellenville through July 14,  Tickets abd additional information are available:  Call 845-647-5511or on line at https://shadowlandstages.org/box-office/

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