Orange County Theatre Reviews

(Photo by Ben Horak/SCR)

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Near the start of The Roommate, the character of Robyn (Tessa Auberjonois) succinctly sums up the play’s main theme:

“There’s a great liberty in being bad.”

The characters are not the only ones who see the appeal of this sentiment. Playwright Jen Silverman seems to relish subverting expectations, and the result is a compelling, thoughtful play with some good laughs.

The Roommate is a two person play (that runs for approximately one hundred minutes without intermission) set in present day Iowa. Divorced from her husband and estranged from her son, Sharon (Linda Gehringer) is a fifty-four year old woman with not much going for her beyond the next book club meeting and her one day a week job. In an effort to alleviate the emptiness of her house and life she takes on a roommate —Robyn —newly arrived from the Bronx and someone who has led an entirely different life from Sharon’s. In spite of, or perhaps because of, their differences, Sharon and Robyn form a friendship, but then Sharon discovers Robyn is keeping some dark secrets.

Something really appreciable about The Roommate is how tonally consistent it is throughout the show. It avoids the mood whiplash that many other black comedies cannot. There are times when Sharon or Robyn will do or say something that makes you think the character is going off the deep end. However, none of these moments come out of nowhere or belong in an entirely different show.

It is a little slow-paced at the beginning. The play takes its time to establish its world, including its own vernacular. Still even before the plot really picks up there are good quips (though warning a lot of the humor is regionally based, mostly towards the Midwest), and the naturalness of both actresses keeps your interest. A good example is the first dancing scene.      

Gehringer and Auberjonois are excellent in their respective roles. Both of their characters could have turned into caricatures, so it is to the actresses’ credit that both Sharon —especially Sharon —and Robyn stay grounded and interesting rather than grating. Their interactions have an ease about them. 

It is not hard to imagine smaller play houses being able to pull off performances of The Roommate. It has one set that mostly consists of Sharon’s kitchen —though you can see some other parts of the house such as the porch and a stairwell.  The lighting design towards the end is beautiful. But most of all, the set really makes sense as belonging to Sharon. The simple set was a great choice because it heightens the contrast of the out of the ordinary events that transpire onstage.

Great Show

Review
8.5 Overall
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Story8.5
Acting9
Set & Design8.5
Costumes8
Entertainment8.5
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January 3-22, 201​7

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