Two Rooms | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Two Rooms, American Theater Company. It was only a matter of time before a theater company saw the relevance--not to mention the commercial potential--of Lee Blessing's 1988 play about U.S. policies in the Middle East. The "enemy" here is Lebanon, not Iraq or Afghanistan, but there's a depressing continuity as individual citizens are caught in the clash between nations.

The American professor taken hostage in Blessing's play suffers at the hands of his unseen captors in Beirut, but not nearly as much as his wife back home. She's converted his den into a replica of a prison cell, where she retreats to commune with him. The press is curious. Washington is worried. The former wants her to make her grief public. The latter wants her to keep quiet. Blessing takes no sides, arguing each case fairly and articulately.

Companies mistrustful of the inherent controversy may opt to play it safe and simply jerk tears. Director Brian Russell's initial approach to the State Department representative as a comic-book fed clad in an ill-fitting Men in Black suit leads us to think that he might have taken a cut-and-dried approach. But this stab at caricature quickly gives way to intelligent, unhurried performances amplified by only as much emotion as required to lend the issues immediacy.

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