EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
The following are excerpts from the November 1, 2016 Baltimore Sun review of The Roommate by Tim Smith.
In her mid-50s and in a post-divorce rut, Sharon takes the risky step of advertising for someone with whom to share her Iowa City home.
The last thing she expects to walk through her kitchen door is a similar-aged vegan lesbian who hails not only from the big bad city — New York, naturally, and its gritty Bronx borough to boot — but also from an equally foreign state of mind. That she comes bearing boxes full of such oddities as little ceramic dolls adds to the surprise.
Jen Silverman's comic-sober play "The Roommate," enjoying its East Coast premiere at Everyman Theatre and featuring two of the company's finest resident actors, gives the venerable colliding-worlds scenario a neat spin. Although you know right away that there will be curves in the road, they arrive at unexpected spots, lead in unexpected directions.
The uptight, but so darn nice, Sharon (Deborah Hazlett) offers the first indication about where things might head when she tries to get to know her roomie Robyn (Beth Hylton), who seems terribly evasive about why she decided to move to the Midwest.
"I guess everybody wants to start over," Sharon says, quite innocently, to the New Yorker. "Just burn it all down and start over."
The coming-of-middle-age tale has much to say about women feeling constricted, much to say about what it means for them to wiggle free from binding ties and take a walk on the wild side.
Most tellingly, perhaps, motherhood emerges as a substantial theme. Sharon and Robyn turn out to have something in common when it comes to children and dealing with the expectations involved.
Plays today don't often put mature women front and center or give voice to their concerns and disappointments. "The Roommate" does so to refreshing effect. You may not like or understand some of the choices the characters make, but you're likely to find yourself caught up in every step of their journey.
Everyman's staging is directed by Johanna Gruenhut, who ensures that the humor — Silverman's dialogue is very funny — registers as fully as each darker turn of tone.
Hazlett's portrayal of Sharon is richly drawn, starting with the nervously reiterated "OKs" in the opening moments. Each of the character's defining traits emerges in endearing fashion, especially the tendency to blurt things out and then try to recork them. A little bit of stage business involving Sharon's attempt to emulate the super-casual Robyn by hoisting herself up on the kitchen counter gives Hazlett a delicious chance to shine. She also makes magic out of a scene when Sharon gets the urge to dance.
Hylton likewise burrows into the character of Robyn, a woman who, like her carefully ripped designer jeans, reveals only so much at a time. (Sarah Cubbage designed the spot-on costumes.) The nuanced performance includes a great cackle of a laugh when Robyn is at her freest, a telling hesitation when certain truths intrude.
Set designer Timothy R. Mackabee gives Sharon's spacious kitchen all sorts of wonderful details, down to the smoke detector and dated wallpaper. Jesse Belsky's subtle lighting is another plus in this effective production of a disarming play.