Curtain Call: The Roommate or what’s dormant comes alive

Long Wharf, New Haven: Sharon has retired from marriage (divorced) and now needs a roommate to help fill the emptiness she feels in her large Iowa home. She’s 50-something and she wants a roommate about the same age. Robyn arrives from the Big Apple and though the ages are similar, they exemplify total misfits. Sharon has been a longtime wife and a caring mother, who still communicates often with her son. She knows how to cook and clean. Her entertainment is attending the local book club.

Robyn is no home body. She was married; she does have a daughter, but her daughter wants nothing to do with her mom. So why would a woman from NYC move to Iowa? She’s got plenty of good reasons. First and foremost, she wants to start over from her life of scamming and drugs.

Playwright Jen Silverman reveals Robyn’s issues carefully. Each revelation excites Sharon who finds all of Robyn’s exploits irresistible. Before you know it, Sharon’s trying to be a vegan and begins to smoke pot. She then starts caring for the cannabis plants that Robyn has brought into the home and it doesn’t take long before she’s selling marijuana brownies and pot to her book club friends. Sharon begs Robyn to show her how to scam people over the telephone and soon Sharon steals from her online dates. Sharon also discovers the many identities that Robyn has and many of her wildest secrets.

So what do we glean from this? People who are in their 50s miss having fun. They long for adventure and the thrill of something new. More importantly, this play also makes one wonder if Sharon had a desire to be “bad” for many years. She refers to stealing something from a store as a child and being reprimanded by her mother. Perhaps Robyn has unleashed that dormant side of Sharon who now embraces being bad. Doesn’t everyone have a good and bad side? Also, the Internet brought these characters together. You never know who you are dealing with online. Whether it’s online dating or looking for roommate, beware.

What is more disturbing, however, is the fact that while Robyn realizes that she needs to get out of Iowa before Sharon really goes nuts (Sharon bought a semi-automatic), Sharon discovers Robyn’s stash of cocaine, lines it up and is ready for more action in her illicit new business.

Under the keen direction of Mike Donahue, the two characters come to life, but there is a moral issue here as well. We can laugh when we watch Sharon experience pot for the first time; we can laugh when she hugs a rifle. But can we really laugh at a drug dealer having fun at the expense of others? This is definitely an absurd comedy.

Overall, there’s not a dull moment in the play. That’s due to the two actors who deliver wonderful performances. Linda Powell plays Sharon, the bumpkin who has been sheltered far too long. Powell makes Sharon’s naivety almost believable, although I suspect even in Iowa, people know what scamming and drugs are like. Tasha Lawrence as Robyn plays a tough cookie and she does it convincingly. Whether she’s sneaking a smoke or trying to get her daughter to call her back, she is believable through and through.

Dane Laffrey’s set design is functional and complex with many necessary rooms. Anita Yavich’s costumes are character perfect and Reza Behjat’s lighting and Stowe Nelson’s sound design amplify the best of the play. It runs through Nov. 4; for tickets, call the box office: 203-787-4282.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]