International diplomacy is like a game of chess, full of strategy, maneuvering and calculation. You take risks you hope won’t prove fatal and you never want to be the pawn.
Two Rooms, by playwright Lee Blessing, soberly explores the world of US foreign policy by examining a fictitious kidnapping in Beirut, and the calculations made to get the victim home safely.
Michael Wells (played by Sean Dynan) is a teacher at the American School in Beirut when he is captured during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). American prisoners are a useful commodity in the game of war, and Michael is kept locked away until he might become useful currency. The play opens one year into his captivity. His wife, Lainie (played by Caity Brown), has returned to the US and turned one room in their house into a prison similar to Michael’s – a place she can go to feel close to him.
This room is visited by a journalist (Dave Gross) and a State Department official (Sandra Cox True) who each have their own agendas. Through their interactions with Lainie, and Michael’s observations of his captors, we enter a world where death can be rationalized in the name of patriotism and where individuals tout party lines while knowing in their heart they are less human for doing so.
Director John Nunemaker puts forth a straightforward production that lets the script speak for itself with a focus on dialogue and an understated set (by Dan Patrick Leano). Sean Dynan gives the most nuanced performance of the cast, successfully conveying the horrors of captivity in a role that mostly involves a series of long monologues. Caity Brown does an admirable job expressing the frustration of separation.
First performed in 1990, Two Rooms is an interesting play to revisit in the post 9/11 era. Two Rooms reminds us that conflict between the US and the Middle East was going on long before that violence reached our shores in 2001 and also how innocent we, as a nation, were at that time. In particular, watching Lainie’s character struggle to understand why her husband was taken, and why no one is able to rescue him, reminded me of the relative naivete most Americans had regarding anti-American sentiments prior to 9/11.
Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of Two Rooms is not a light night of theater, but for those ready to examine the human cost of global interaction, it is certainly a thought-provoking one.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Two Rooms plays from February 17 to March 4, 2017, at Kensington Arts Theatre performing at the Kensington Town Hall Armory – 3716 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 621-0528, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘Two Rooms’ at Kensington Arts Theatre. Part 1: Sean Dynan.
Meet the Cast of ‘Two Rooms’ at Kensington Arts Theatre. Part 2: Sandra Cox True.