Two lost souls, one tromping through a blizzard in a rumpled wedding dress, meet up by chance in remotest Alaska in the expertly written and performed "Brilliant Traces."
By JOSHUA TANZER
Imagine yourself for a moment in a remote Alaskan cabin without a neighbor for miles around, in the grip of a blizzard that makes it impossible to see even a few feet through the driving snow. The wood stove is stoked and you're bundled up warmly in your single bed, drifting off to sleep. Perhaps the last thing you'll be expecting is for a woman in a rumpled white wedding dress and satin slippers to suddenly emerge from the snow, stumble through your cabin door, babble manically for a few minutes and eat your food before suddenly collapsing on the floor.
But that's our introduction to the brilliantly troubled world of "Brilliant Traces" an exceptionally well written, staged and performed two-person drama about people with murky pasts. The first mystery that presents itself is, obviously, who is this woman and how did she get here? Less obviously, we begin to wonder the same thing about the man who lives alone in this cabin as far as possible from humanity. As the characters
|Written by: Cindy Lou Johnson.|
Directed by: Guido Venitucci.
Cast: Heather Aldridge, Robert Harriell.
Related links: Robert Harriell official site
|The Actor's Playground|
412 Eighth Avenue, 2nd Floor
Feb. 14 - March 10, 2002
It turns out that the woman, Rosannah (Heather Aldridge), has been behind the wheel going as far as her poor car and a supply of junk food while take her before giving out. "Look at my hands tremble," she tells the man. "That's a Mars Bar tremble."
Only after Rosannah wakes up from two days passed out during which she awakens only once to mumble cryptically, "I'm the prettiest girl you've ever seen" do we begin to get a picture of Henry (Robert Harriell) as well.
If Rosannah sometimes sounds like an urbanite whose dialogue is shaped by years of inconclusive therapy, Henry is plain-spoken in an unintentionally amusing way that suggests the kind of careful attention to the basics of life that must mark life in the frigid wilderness. He offers her some soup from the pot on the stove, saying, "It's always better the second day. I made it yesterday but you didn't wake up, so now it's the second day. It's better."
Now usually when a man and a woman are thrown together for the entire length of a play, you would start to wonder how and when romance is going to crop up, but not necessarily in this case. These are two people who are forced to be together but don't want to be. Rosannah, who for all we know would have kept driving obliviously to the North Pole if her car would have made it, is itching to get back on the road and away from human company, blizzard or no blizzard. Henry, we gradually sense, has had enough trouble dealing with other people that he's deliberately stripped his life of people and complications to the point that he can deal with it. He resents Rosannah's arrival not because she requires his care, which he gives dutifully, but because she forces him out of his comfortably antisocial routine into uncomfortable human contact.
"Brilliant Traces" is a marvel of great character writing by Cindy Lou Johnson, both intense and often humorous with careful attention to every well-crafted line and personality trait, and the performances here do it justice. Heather Aldridge gives Rosannah the perfect sort of office-girl-nobody-notices quality, while Robert Harriell skillfully balances Henry's mastery of his own domain with his extreme anxiety about having somebody else in it. And the play winds up being an extremely moving portrait of two people who've gone about as far out as they can go on the run from themselves.
|MARCH 4, 2002|
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