Dynamic Duo Lead New Village Arts’ Comedy ‘The Roommate’
A raucous single act play running through April 23, New Village Arts’ newest opening The Roommate brings together two talented actors for a comedy about finding yourself through the interactions you have with others.
As Jen Silverman’s play unfolds, Sharon, an empty nester who has recently gone through a divorce, has decided to rent out extra space in her home. Enter Robyn, a New Yorker in search of a fresh start. Robyn is everything that Sharon is not. She is artistic, vegan, and intensely private, and while those things are unobjectionable to Sharon, they are outside of her scope of experience. But when Sharon stumbles across a stack of faux drivers licenses, all bearing Robyn’s photo, she begins to wonder who her new roommate really is, and if, in fact, a little adventure or danger is something that she might be seeking as well.
Lead Milena (Sellers) Phillips, who plays the reserved and motherly Sharon, does a beautiful job of portraying the growth of a woman rediscovering her passion and coming into a new, more vibrant life. The audience has the opportunity to see this change from a hovering helicopter mom to an adult son, desperately looking for companionship of a roommate to fill the emptiness in her life to a confident and outgoing middle aged diva, ready to embrace the power of her own womanhood. It is a well executed development arc on the part of Phillips.
Her cast mate, Kim Strassburger, has a very different role to play. Robyn is dry, cagey, and secretive. Having worked as a con artist for years, Robyn’s move to Iowa represents and coincides with an intentional move away from a past littered with crime. Strassburger does a wonderful job of capturing not only this private nature and the resistance to falling back into the same old traps, but also the enchantment that she shares for her burgeoning protégé as Sharon comes out of her shell.
Under Samantha Ginn’s direction, a full commitment to the zaniness of the characters and situations presented are evident throughout, not only in the performances, but also in the staging in a cozy midwestern home filled to the brim with curios and knickknacks (scenic design is by Christopher Scott Murrillo and props are by Andrea Moriarty). This home is framed by a range of brightly colored washes, thanks to a well lit cyclorama. The colors changing from blue to pink to yellow mark a shifting of time for the more tame scenes, and are interspersed with more effervescent flickering lights and energetic music during the scenes that range toward more wild. Lights and sound design for this production were done by Annelise Salazar and Marcos Rico and director Samantha Ginn, respectively, and costumes were designed by Katrina Deroche.
The show is advertised as The Odd Couple meets Breaking Bad, which makes a bit more sense once you have seen it (note: not for kids) – but really it is a story of self-discovery, and how the oft-comedic exploration of experiences that we have with others can help us find our wildest, most sparkly, dangerous selves.
The Roommate runs through April 23 at New Village Arts.
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