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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Roan @ The Gates
Let me put it another way. The future looks pretty grim for Roan (Mel House), an information infrastructure analyst employed by the NSA (National Security Agency). Roan was apparently not overly concerned that leaking what she has discovered regarding the safety, privacy and security of Americans with regard to the electronic harvesting, storage and distribution of their personal information by both American and international agencies and corporations was a crime. This is the gist of Christina Gorman's well-intentioned, but unsatisfying two-character play Roan @ The Gates now having its world premiere.
With presumably patriotic zeal, Roan has left the U.S. to turn over some troublesome if also classified material to a British news reporter working for a group called Transparency Now. In Scene II, (we'll get to Scene I presently) Roan has not only been duly outed and targeted for capture by the NSA but is now someone of interest to the FBI, CIA, and even the KGB.
In Scene II, Roan has been waylaid and detained by persons unknown between international flights, sitting and waiting for days in a secured holding room somewhere in the Moscow airport. The world's canniest secret agents have been looking for her but it doesn't take long for Roan's wife Nat (Aaliyah Habeeb) to find her for an extended tell-me-what's-been-going-on-behind-my-back talk. Nat, a civil rights attorney and a special advocate for LBGTQ issues has evidently been clueless as to Roan's decision to be a whistle-blower.
In Scene I, we have already met the two women at their home in Alexandria, Virginia, where they romp and talk on and around their queen-size bed (the only prop besides an end-table in designers Christopher and Justin Swaker's otherwise un-revelatory set). Of some importance is that Roan is white and Nat is black and that Roan's embryos are currently in a freezer waiting for further instructions. There is a lot of chit-chat of no particular consequence that might be a background into what has happened by the start of Scene II.
Not surprising that all attempts made during her internment for Roan to get asylum in a foreign country appear to be futile. Additional drama is stirred up when Nat vents all of her pent-up anger, frustration, anxiety, and rage with regard to how her life and her career has been upended, not to mention the upheaval of their home with searches by the FBI. Nat has been put on extended leave by her law firm and forced to give up a case that means a great deal to her.
There is no doubt that playwright Christina Gorman has picked a thorny, topical and timely subject on which to build a dramatic story. What is essentially missing is both additional back story and possibly future story to heighten our interest and empathy for these women beyond the present crisis.
Gorman's informed text is commendable as is her addressing of our concerns with cyber-security. But the constant sparring between Roan and Nat quickly devolves too quickly into the tedious and repetitious. The play, under the firm grasp of director Michelle Tattenbaum has potential but still gives the impression of being a work in progress.
A more layered understanding of the attraction the two women have for each other beyond the shared lurking danger and some quieter intimacy backed by a rhythm of dialog that goes beyond twitter-like responses would help to give the play more foundation. Ultimately, it would be nice to see a glimmer of the true grit that it takes for a courageous and patriotic woman and her LBGTQ advocate partner withstand the assault of what is undoubtedly a most formidable and frightening adversary.
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Roan @ The Gates by Christina Gorman
Directed by Michelle Tattenbaum
Cast: Asliyah Habeeb (Nat), Mel House (Roan)
Set Design: Christopher and Justin Swader
Lighting Design: Marika Kent
Costume Design: Deborah Caney
Sound Design: Megan Culley
Stage Manager: Amy Fisk
Production Manager: Liz Cesario
Running Time: 80 minutes no intermission
Luna Stage Theatre Company, 555 Valley Road, West Orange, N.J. r LunaStage.org/Roan
Performances: Thursday at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.
From 01/31/19 Opened 02/02/19 Ends 02/26/19
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/03/19
NJ Theatre Alliance
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