Reviewed by Sarah Bradley
60 minutes (actual run time: 50 minutes) / Comedy / R
Billed as a play about a “psycho-sexual relationship between two roommates”, I expected a darker, more twisted take on the Hollywood rom-com versions of friends-with-benefits arrangements. Instead, the Roommate was a straightforward, enjoyable but predictable take on the struggle between two roommates who live together while pursuing a purely physical relationship.
Performed at the small and cozy Avant Garde Bar, the setup was simple and informal, with a small stage at the front window of the venue. This worked well for the subject matter and lent to some interesting voyeuristic scenes where the lead actor exposed his emotions to the audience. The use of two levels in staging was also effective as it created a divide between the interactions between the actors and those between the lead and the audience. One slight problem was that it was sometimes difficult to see the actors’ faces as the lights were shining directly into the audience. The crowd was fairly small, with about 12 people seated at tables and bar stools, and appeared attentive, with the audience members near the front more engaged due to proximity to the actors.
The plot progressed in a natural, believable way, although the short run time made some key developments seem rushed. The lead actor did a good job of engaging with the audience when he revealed his thought process and emotional turmoil in short confessional sequences. I see what they were going for with the female character, but I think she was lacking in personality, which was problematic because it made their relationship less than compelling and the chemistry somewhat forced. I found myself wondering what it is about her, besides physical attractiveness, that so captivates him?
One element that stood out was the use of phone interruptions to capture the conflict and frustration the male feels towards the female. There were also a few strong moments showing what happens when tension builds up to a tipping point. The end tied up nicely without the closure appearing forced and there was a poignant message about catharsis. Oddly enough, the fact that I didn’t feel invested in their insubstantial relationship made the ambiguous ending satisfying and believable. I do wish they had further explored the psychology of the two characters, and perhaps tried showing, rather than telling, the rationale behind their decisions.
Overall, The Roommate was well done for a one-act play about straightforward subject matter. It has great potential to explore the inner conflict between reason and emotion that is inherent in romantic/sexual relationships. A more dynamic female would make the progression from lust to love more realistic. There were some missed opportunities with the use of a “voice of reason” that could perhaps be developed further to add another dimension to the plot. One final point: the musical references were far too literal to add any intrigue!
The Roommate, by Alan Bee, is playing at Avant Garde Bar – BYOV D on Friday June 15 at 5:30pm, Saturday June 16 at 8:00pm, Tuesday June 19 at 7:00pm, Wednesday June 20 at 6:00pm, Thursday June 21 at 7:00pm, Friday June 22 at 7:00pm, and Saturday June 23 at 7:00pm. Tickets are $10.