Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Roommate
Florida Studio Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Dry Land


Rita Rehn and Jo Twiss
Photo by Matthew Holler/FST
One of Florida Studio Theatre's best attributes is their play selection. They rarely choose the "play du jour" that every other regional company in the country is clamoring for. The choice for their second offering in the Summer Mainstage series is The Roommate by Jen Silverman.

The play's plotting is a bit heavy handed—the titular roommate Robyn has a background of being a con—but the underlying themes seem universal. Those themes have to do with re-inventing yourself, how one person can influence another, and how interpersonal relationships ebb and flow. Sharon, the owner of the house that Robyn comes to live in, takes some serious missteps while rethinking her drab life. This took on a strong personal relevance for me.

Jo Twiss as Sharon is the earth-mother, although her cubs and mate are not hovering around her much. Rita Rehn as Robyn arrives as a border, settling in Iowa, a transplant from The Bronx. Robyn is all over the map emotionally, constantly trying on new things to see if she can put together a better functioning model. It is exciting for sure, but what she craves is Sharon's solidity, while Sharon needs to be pulled out of her lethargy. The possibilities for them to positively influence each other seem strong, but everything goes awry, and Sharon gets entangled in Robyn's shady past. The chemistry between them, the acting rhythms and abilities to relate to each other, is very strong. I saw the play on its first weekend, I would love to return and see it again after they have settled in even more. Both ladies flesh these characters out, and the audience connects to them emotionally.

I have to believe that the most important focus for director Gavin Cameron-Webb was to help each actress find the center of her character, the deeper emotions and other driving forces. Based on the performances in front of me, he has done this very well. Lex Liang has designed a practically functioning kitchen and the costumes as well. Mike Wood is the lighting designer.

The Roommate is an interesting play. Much of it is comic in tone, allowing audiences to be entertained while also finding something to think about that may be relevant to their own lives. Florida Studio Theatre has another hit production for their Summer Mainstage series.

Florida Studio Theatre presents The Roommate through August 7, 2016, at the Keating Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.

Cast (in order of appearance):
Sharon: Jo Twiss*
Robyn: Rita Rehn*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association

Scenic & Costume Designer: Lex Liang
Lighting Designer: Mike Wood
Assistant Lighting Designer: Ryan Finzelber
Stage Manager: Ro Johns*
Director: Gavin Cameron-Webb
Special Thanks: Terry Layman


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