By R. J. Donovan
The season at SpeakEasy Stage Company continues with a production of “The Moonlight Room” directed by Paul Melone.
In the wee hours of the morning, Sal and Josh are two teens camping out in a New York City hospital emergency room. They’ve brought in their unseen friend, Lightfield, who’s overdosed at a party. Despite their complete lack of experience, they think they’ve got it under control -- i.e., no parents involved.
However, over the next 24 hours the parents do become entangled in the vigil -- Sal’s needy, resentful mother who’s still struggling with divorce, and Lightfield’s father, who’s, well . . . struggling. He’s lost his wife, his son doesn’t let him in anymore, and he hasn't got a clue where things went wrong. Josh's parents are among the missing -- which we learn more about later on.
The problems of independence, brooding teens, protective parents, peer pressure and “nobody understands me” go back to Romeo and Juliet. Here, the contemporary setting brings in drugs, weapons, depression, violence, Bad Boy boyfriends and “teens at risk.”
Although she doesn’t explore many new ideas about parents ambushing children and vice versa, playwright Tristine Skyler does captures the authenticity of the language.
Sadly, the action moves at a snail's pace. And more than once, the play comes to a complete halt in order for someone to make a speech. And that’s exactly what it sounds like --a speech -- especially with Lightfield’s father in Act Two. It’s also a cause for pause when a character launches into a long, trite story to answer a simple question.
On the plus side are a couple of very compelling performances that ring true and hold your attention. As Sal, Tracee Chimo (far right) offers a good blend of insecurity and impatience as she struggles with her life and the situation at hand. Adding to the conflict is her secret love for Josh. Chimo has a particularly strong moment in Act Two when she recounts visiting Josh’s home for the first time.
Josh is played with remarkable confidence by newcomer Ian Michaels (above left) in his professional debut. Michaels has a solid lock on his character -- the self-reliant, street-wise guru who's frightened all the same. He's very much the kid earmarked for trouble.
Cheryl McMahon (center, above) is Sal’s mother. And although she's described as being so depressed by her divorce that she’s become a pitiful hermit, she shows up at the ER pulled together, pleasant and exacting enough to put Sal in her place more than once.
Josh’s nerdy, half step-brother Adam is a doctor who sheds a little medical light on things when he shows up in the second act. As Adam, David Krinitt (left, with Chimo) shows why he’s endearing himself to Boston audiences in a performance that’s carefully controlled and annoyingly funny.
After kicking things off in the new Calderwood Pavilion, SpeakEasy is back in the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Theatre for this one.
With the audience once again sitting on three sides of the playing area, Jenna McFarland’s waiting room set proved just how real it looked as the crowd filed in. One woman saw a sign on the set for Rest Rooms and promptly headed off in that direction before an usher gently directed her away from backstage and out into the lobby.
"The Moonlight Room"" is at The Boston Center for the Arts' Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont Street in Boston, through February 19. For information, call 617-933-8600.
Production Photos: Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo @2005
-- OnStage Boston
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