Unpacking “The Roommate”

Imagine a modern-day “Thelma & Louise” set in an Iowa City house instead of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, and you’ll have a feel for the flavor of Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate.”

When I showed up at Plays & Players Theatre to see “The Roommate,” I was expecting a play about two middle-aged women living together. I figured it would be a good show because it’s an 1812 Productions comedy, and everything I’ve ever seen them do has been laugh-out-loud funny (literally laugh out loud, not the token LOLs we all seem to be texting each other nowadays). But “The Roommate” was so much more than I expected. Imagine a modern-day “Thelma & Louise” set in an Iowa City house instead of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, and you’ll have a feel for the flavor of Jen Silverman’s writing. Jen, who wrote “The Roommate,” managed to achieve the perfect mixture of disclosure and non-disclosure. Her dialogue was pitch-perfect both in terms of what the characters said and what was left unsaid. 

Harriet Power, the show’s director, breathed life into the piece. Every detail from the set design to the blocking to the music served to accelerate the pacing of the narrative as the play took us to unexpected and exhilarating places.

It was funny. It was deep. It was real.  

On either side of me, my fellow audience members were chuckling. At one point, the man behind me gasped at an unexpected, but ultimately true-to-life, reveal. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that the actors, Jennifer Childs and Grace Gonglewski, managed to so skillfully embody their characters that they became Sharon and Robyn, respectively.

Childs and Gonglewski have won numerous prestigious acting awards. It’s easy to see why. These renowned Philadelphia performers engaged in their onstage relationship as if in a dance – one leading, the other following, both moving in tandem. The story may be about two women in their mid-fifties, but it’s also about the universal inner quest for excitement, connection, and the unexpected.

“The Roommate” is part of the Kim and David Adler Series. The play opened on Wednesday, October 2, and the run will continue through October 20, 2019, with two special subtitled performances, one in English, the other in Spanish. 

Tickets and information are available at www.1812productions.org or 215-592-9560.

Images: Mark Garvin

2 thoughts on “Unpacking “The Roommate”

  1. I thought the ending somewhat forced and did not flow from the play’s narrative. Otherwise the review was spot on.

  2. Thanks so much for your feedback. I totally get where you’re coming from, but I also feel like if they’d gone in a different direction it would’ve been disappointing. I won’t give any spoilers, but I would be interested to hear what others think.

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