I’ve been an avid fan of Jen Silverman for a few years. Favorite titles include The Moors, Blink, Crane Story, Phoebe in Winter, and I think all of us at San Francisco Playhouse are thrilled at the opportunity to produce one of her plays! She has a truly unique voice, one of our gifted young playwright/prophets who use their acute antennae to pull necessary stories down out of the tumult of our experience, stories we crave that show us who we are and how we fit in the moment of now. The Roommate is one such story, one of those rare pieces written for two women who are no longer young; it resonates with so much that we recognize from the mythology of our culture.
We are used to the idea that those in our culture who are dispossessed sometimes turn to crime. How persuasively Ms. Silverman argues that these two middle-aged women are among those dispossessed, subjected to programming, restrictions, and prejudices that makes them feel lesser than, and bringing to the table more than a small dose of rage to drive their rebellion.
The Roommate, underscored by Nina Ball’s fabulous big sky set, also riffs in upside down irony on our fascination with the American outlaw. An essential piece of our mythology, we revere these barbarians who somehow defined our “don’t tread on me” independence, and still hound our national self-image with bad-ass-ness. The women in The Roommate are driven—for good or ill—by those same yearnings to break loose from their cultural identities, to ride free on the range without concern for the consequences. How our rage and delusions of grandeur still blind us to the destructive impulses run wild in homage to the “wild west.”
The Roommate also riffs on how we encounter those who are different, those who embrace alternative lifestyles and who are marginalized because of their courageous choices. What a perfect journey into the empathy gym for one very traditional woman from Iowa City who encounters, is terrified by, and yet learns to love and embrace someone who she would never before have given the time of day. How blessed we are to have this work to celebrate these two unique and gifted women who pass each other on their lonely journeys across the prairie and are forever changed by their encounter.
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