Two Rooms | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Two Rooms, at Urbus Orbis.

Michael, a professor at an American university in Beirut, has been taken prisoner by one of the country's many warring factions. His wife, Lainie, responds by converting Michael's study into a replica of his cell, where she languishes in a kind of telepathic communication conjured up by his old clothes. She interrupts her vigil only to snarl at the U.S. government official who tells her to be patient and at the newspaper reporter who urges her to go public.

Having memorized their speeches, actors are never at a loss for words, obviously--but how lifelike their characters are will depend on how well the performers suggest the thinking and feeling behind the words. Thad Anzur, playing Michael, allows us to see thoughts cross his character's mind before he articulates them. But Marti Szalai-Raymond as Lainie is too busy conveying her character's anger and anguish to have time to consider, even for an instant, the validity of anyone else's arguments. Even though playwright Lee Blessing indicates in the script that Lainie wasn't always nuts, this Lainie is so unreasonable you'd never believe it.

Usually the sight of a rational adult pushed to the point of madness arouses our sympathy, but since we never see Lainie as anyone but a stubbornly inconsolable emotional wreck, we're increasingly tempted to leave her to her distress. We spend the time instead wondering why director Errol McLendon didn't take steps to correct this crippling flaw.

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