Jen Silverman’s comedy has its Colorado premiere at Lake Dillon Theatre Co.
Five-hundred-and-forty-four days behind schedule, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate opened Sept. 8 at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. Colorado’s first production of the play (directed by the LTDC’s Melissa Livingston) was originally scheduled for March 2020. Eighteen months and too many good-byes later, this story of endings and new beginnings hits close to home.
The Roommate is set in a tan Iowan kitchen washed in blue and yellow light. Scrubbed and sparse at the start, the kitchen slowly accumulates grime and ash and cups and bottles and dollar bills and boxes and bags as two women and a telephone learn to live together.
Robyn (Laurie Carter Rose) is a gay poet from the Bronx who does lots of interesting things but somehow never manages to say anything particularly interesting. She moves in with recently divorced Sharon (Emma Messenger), an awkward mother living under a rock.
Robyn needs to settle down, and Sharon needs to loosen up. Sitcom material abounds.
The play is undeniably funny, thanks to Messenger. Finally, the middle-aged, sexually repressed divorced Midwest loner with a lisp has her moment in the spotlight. We see Sharon high, Sharon drunk, Sharon hungover. Sharon holding a gun. Sharon crawling across stage — hell, even her just walking across stage was enough to elicit chuckles from the audience.
The Roomate is aided by a first-rate production. The costume design (Shelia Russ) is spot on; Robyn’s shawls, newsboy caps and patchwork pants remind me of my dreadlocked piano teacher, and Sharon’s blouses and jeans remind me of every lovable secretary, librarian, or school counselor ever. As the roomies start wearing each other’s clothes, their personalities begin to blend. The reactionary Sharon turns provocative, and rebellious Robyn plays mother hen.
This is, I think, what the play’s about. Reinvention is a clumsy, chaotic, sometimes toxic, often lonely process. Like writing poetry, it never turns out how we expect it to, and it never ever works out on the first try. But as Robyn says, “Everyone’s first poem is bad. There’s a great liberty in being bad.”
As Robyn and Sharon badly try to be new and different people, you’ll start to realize how fickle personality is, and how superficial. After all, what is living if not playing a part? Sometimes, however, the part plays us. We are the people we interact with, and when they leave, we feel a piece of ourselves go with them.
Thanks to women on and off the stage, The Roommate delivers on multiple fronts, and well deserved its standing ovation. Go see this play if you liked Thelma and Louise, The Odd Couple, or even Breaking Bad. Go see this play if you haven’t talked to your kids in a while. Go see this play if you just wanna burn it all down. Actually, just go see this play anyway, because plays are back, baby.
Well, for now at least.