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A CurtainUp Review
Rooms a rock romance
By Les Gutman
Rooms is a two-hander about Ian (Doug Kreeger), a reclusive musician, and the far more ambitious woman, Monica (Leslie Kritzer), who coaxes him out of his room for a brief trip to the top of punk rock stardom. The book (by Paul Scott Goodman, who also wrote the songs, and his wife, Miriam Gordon) tells us precious little that matters about the pair, and treads a path that many have already gone down to better effect before.
Not surprisingly, a "romance" develops, fades and re-emerges. Much is made of the fact that Monica is Jewish and Ian is not, but not so much to invest the story with meaning as to set up a disappointing song, "Scottish Jewish Princess." It's a pattern — jokes and songs float on their own bottom, rarely bothering to move the plot along. Even when they do, as in Kritzer's barnstorming "Bring the Future Faster," what's remarkable is how little beyond its title the song adds to the story.
While Kritzer exudes the sort of charisma that adds her to the list of Broadway stars-in-the-making, Kreeger is stuck in a role that is uncharismatic by design. Indeed, from his awful haircut to his misanthropic personality, Ian provides little support for a "breakout" performance, and Kreeger doesn't really manufacture one. While he never knocks our socks off, he has a nice voice that serves the songs well.
Lacking a great story, it would be nice to be able to say that at least the show has some terrific songs, but alas they too are fairly unmemorable. Although the show is billed as a rock musical, most of Goodman's music falls closer to a 70s pop idiom, and has a repetitive feel. When he attempts punk rock, his music has the dishonest feel of someone working outside of this native genre.
The set design is spare but serviceable. It relies only on a pair of chairs and a door that's on casters and that's moved about by the actors so much that one wonders if the title of the work might not have referenced doors instead of rooms. The band (which is quite strong and that plays the fine arrangements of the music well) has been deposited on mid-rise scaffolding behind the playing area. The costumes are very much on target, and the lighting is very good, giving the show overall very much of a rock concert feel. The sound design serves its purpose, although from the center of the orchestra in this modest-sized house, the vocals were overly homogenized. Scott Schwartz's direction covers all of the basics very well, with almost indiscernible contribution from choreographer Matt Williams. What the direction fails to accomplish is any enhancement to the theatricality of what I regard as a pretty weak piece of theater.