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Reviewed by:
  • One Room: A World Revealed by Andy Bragen et al.
  • Jeanmarie Higgins
ONE ROOM: A WORLD REVEALED. By Andy Bragen et al. Directed by Knud Adams et al. Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, Weston, Vermont. Streamed August 7, 2020.

In Look at the Walls by Charly Evon Simpson, the tenth of fourteen short, one-person plays that comprise One Room: A World Revealed, a young woman (Erin Roché) asks, “Have you ever given any thought to your walls?” She describes her childhood bedroom’s lavender walls, how they kept her safe from the outside world, but concludes that this safety was an illusion, that walls “can’t protect you from the dangers lurking outside the door. . . . They never could.” One Room—an evening of plays commissioned by Vermont’s Weston Playhouse Theatre, filmed separately in the actors’ homes and then streamed live in a public event—asked fourteen playwrights to write in response to the questions, “What makes a home? What stories might be hiding in its ordinary rooms?” The resulting stories presented characters who talk a lot about the walls, doors, windows, and domestic things that surround them while also longing for the people, places, and things of their pasts. In an evening of fourteen streamed plays, however, not one was primarily concerned with the future. Whatever the mode or genre, every piece resonated as a gathering of the energy of memories with the stillness of the present. Although this lack of future talk does not signal a lack of hope, it does suggest the unfolding of one long, pandemic-stalled moment simultaneously captured by fourteen people, each inhabiting their own house of memories.

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Jakeem Dante Powell in Rita by Josh Wilder. (Photo: Courtesy of Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.)

One Room opens with A Room of Nobody Else’s by Will Eno, featuring Alfre Woodard. Surrounded [End Page 99] by books, a former kindergarten teacher waits for someone named Frederick. We slowly realize that she has been waiting for months now, and that some catastrophic event has wiped out the world as we know it. Andy Bragen’s Memories of New York and Other Things That Are Gone follows in this post-apocalyptic vein; a man sits alone in a canoe on the water, gently rocking as he pines for bygone days. Performed by Josh Hamilton, the monologue begins “Bass, drum, and tenor sax . . .” and continues with a list of things and people and places he misses. Most of the lost pleasures are the stuff of his life twenty years ago, but he also describes the present, telling us “crowds at street fairs, that’s all done” and “the playgrounds are chained.” One Room’s plays collectively document the COVID pandemic world of sheltering in place. But more than this, Hamilton in a gray boat on gray water in a gray T-shirt against a cloudy sky suggests that the world as we know it no longer exists.

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Poppy Liu in To Do by Kit Yan. (Photo: Courtesy of Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.)

Other plays in One Room posit a more realistic world, one with which we are now all too familiar: trapped alone in our homes during one very hot summer. Jakeem Dante Powell’s performance in Rita by Josh Wilder brings this idea home, while also reminding us that the experience of the pandemic is both the same and different for everyone, even in New York. Powell, a young African American man bored out of his mind, announces that he’s “done something different today.” He bought a lily, which he names “Rita.” Powell tosses on his narrow bed, walking to the window every so often to see what he is missing outside. The confluence of the COVID-19 and the police shooting pandemic is made legible as the actor announces, “I didn’t do nothing [today].” Repeating “I didn’t do nothing,” the film cuts to Powell in a gesture of Hands Up, Don’t Shoot. Rita is one of several plays that are either expressly or tacitly dedicated to George Floyd’s memory. One such play, Before the Witching Hour...


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pp. 99-101
Launched on MUSE
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