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ROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre: Theater review

Hillary Marren and Matt Deitchman make a charming pair in a straightforward musical romance.

 (Photograph: Taryn Goodge)
1/5
Photograph: Taryn Goodge

Matt Deitchman and Hillary Marren in ROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre

 (Photograph: Taryn Goodge)
2/5
Photograph: Taryn Goodge

Matt Deitchman and Hillary Marren inROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre

 (Photograph: Taryn Goodge)
3/5
Photograph: Taryn Goodge

Hillary Marren inROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre

 (Photograph: Taryn Goodge)
4/5
Photograph: Taryn Goodge

Matt Deitchman and Hillary Marren inROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre

 (Photograph: Taryn Goodge)
5/5
Photograph: Taryn Goodge

Matt Deitchman inROOMS: a rock romance at Broken Nose Theatre

There's only the slightest of substance to Paul Scott Goodman and Miriam Gordon's two-person musical, first staged at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005 before getting a higher-profile Off Broadway production in 2009. In 1977 Glasgow, Monica (Hillary Marren), who aspires to become "the Scottish Barbra Streisand," meets Ian (Matt Deitchman), an introverted songwriter. They fall into a musical partnership and, inevitably, a relationship, but the conflict between Monica's naked "whatever it takes" ambition and Ian's aversion to the spotlight—and increasing drinking problem—threatens to derail them. Will they end up happily together?

Well, of course they do. This is "a rock romance," after all; with the piece opening on Ian knocking on Monica's door in 1980 for what's clearly a reunion before flashing back to the beginning of their story, the outcome's never really in doubt. We can see around every turn in the road before the characters do, in fact, so what's vital to our continued engagement with the tale are compelling songs, of which Goodman has a handful, and two very charming actors—which Broken Nose Theatre's production luckily has in Marren and Deitchman.

Deitchman is stuck mostly in brooding mode as counterpoint to Marren's bubbly, force-of-nature drive—amusingly, she's happy to put on a superficial punk persona if that's what fits the zeitgeist—but you're rooting for the two to get back to themselves, and each other, even as it's obvious that they will. Benjamin Brownson's alley staging, with music director Austin Cook leading a four-piece band, tells the story with style and economy, though the sound mix can make Goodman's lyrics hard to make out in the harder-driving numbers. Still, with a plot this straightforward, you almost don't need to hear the words.

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