A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Moonlight Room"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark

"The Moonlight Room"

by Tristine Skyler
Directed by Paul Melone

Set Design by Jenna McFarland
Costume Design by Jenna Rossi-Camuss
Lighting Design by Seth Reiser
Assistant Stage Manager Cole Genuardi
Production Stage Manager Leah Nichole Zaguroli

Sal................Tracee Chimo
Josh...............Ian Michaels
Mrs. Kelly.......Cheryl McMahon
Mr. Wells.........David Jackson
Adam..............David Krinitt

It's 2 a m in Jenna McFarland's realistic hospital waiting-room set, and a lot happens off-stage in Tristine Skyler's "The Moonlight Room". The center of the action --- at least for a while --- is a pair of high-school seniors (Tracee Chimo & Ian Michaels) waiting for word about their classmate --- a young actor in demand professionally who must have swallowed some drug or other and has a machine breathing for him while they flush his stomach. Later her divorced and neurotic mother (Cheryl McMahon) shows up, and later still the actor's distraught father (David Jackson) --- that family is Black by the way --- and in act two the boy's nerdy intern half-brother (David Krinitt) comes in reducing everything to clinical med-speak. People phone, or go off to ask reports on progress or just to the bathroom, or to the street or the car for ... stuff. The action, though, is mostly tense conversations full of densely suggestive subtexts that rip family relationships to shreds and display them on a dissecting board. It's a very good play.

Before I go any farther let me tell you what the title means, because I missed it and had to ask someone: One of the kids' friends' family referred to their honest-exchange airings of their difficulties and their over-riding love for one another as The Moonlight Room. See, a lot of the talk here flits from topic to topic, because everyone is nervous and worried, and that makes quick details like that one easy to miss. But since an eventual resolution of a lot of child/parent hang-ups is always really what's going on, this reference to a more or less comfortable family --- even if only an unattainable ideal --- is poigniantly apt enough to be Playwright Tristine Skyler's working title. I think it works, anyway.

Director Paul Melone keeps returning the focus to concern about the off-stage actor, though information about him is sparse and the adolescents' attention wanders --- they talk of other friends, of family situations and arguments, in the way friends, forced to sit in a pleasant-but-airless waiting-room with no new information to think about, talk. There are quick black-outs (well, dim-outs; people and hand-props have to be rearranged) that represent passage of time, to after 3 a m, to later in the morning, and into the next day. Occasionally the lights come up with a new character already on stage. The feeling of Waiting persists.

Tracee Chimo playing Sal is on-stage nearly the entire time --- twice curled uncomfortably on chairs trying to nap. She projects a concerned innocence --- about her actor-friend, and about her mother, played by Cheryl McMahon as a woman who is so concerned by the personal insult of her divorce that she can only intermittently try being a parent. The play suggests that if these two can ever Listen to one another, things might improve.

Ian Michaels as Josh has several irons in the fire. He denies he supplied whatever it was the actor took, but admits that he has never "Dealt" in drugs --- he is merely a delivery-boy for a real pusher. He is aggressively street-smart, belittling Sal's honest innocence as mere inexperience with life. But his performance is an excellent exercize in hiding what he doesn't want revealed.

David Jackson as the actor's father looks more like a computer executive than someone working with his hands, but his character changes most through time from condemning Josh as the possible murderer of his son to understanding the others as genuinely concerned, just as he is, about the fate of a friend.

David Krinitt, who appears after the act-break, provides needed comic-relief as a young doctor with zero bedside-manner who speaks of everything, including social and personal issues, in impersonal clinical textbook terms. As Josh's half-brother he admits, quite logically, to ignoring him. It's only through him that Josh's real problems are revealed.

This is a raw, throbbing slice of contemporary life in which familiar problems, situations, and relationships are couched in fresh, individual terms. The little warbling melody with which Cheryl McMahon signals her doubt that her daughter is telling the truth is a whole textbook in expressing parental dogmatism while still holding out a subtext of love. And at the final, tentatively positive blackout, the sudden release of tensions demands an explosion of empathetic applause.

As I said, this is a very good play.


"The Moonlight Room" (28 January - 19 February)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide