‘Brilliant’ lives up to its name

Who would ever want to live in Alaska?

Cindy Lou Johnson, in her play “Brilliant Traces,” brings up that very same question on everyone’s mind at the time of Seward’s Folly — the purchase of Alaska — way back when in 1857.

In this one-room house that isn’t on the way to anywhere, it seems that Henry Harry (David Friedlander ’05) and Rosannah DeLuce (Molly Fox ’08) are there because no one wants to live in Alaska and they are trying to escape the lives they’ve left behind. As the show progresses, these two characters, initially worlds apart, discover that they are standing right next to each other. Henry and Rosannah turn to each other because they cannot face their demons alone.

As a theater studies major, Friedlander opted to do a performance for part of his senior project. He was attracted to the character of Henry, who creates a “weird dynamic” in the play by moving to Alaska.

It is interesting to note that Friedlander, who is the director of improv group Just Add Water, chose this show partly because it was “funny without being clownish.” And he plays the part of Henry well: Friedlander is at all times very aware of his surroundings and of Rosannah, the strange woman who has wandered in from a blizzard into his home. His concentration is noteworthy as there is not a moment when Friedlander steps out of character.

Fox, his costar and the only other person on stage with him for an hour and a half, proves that she, too, can play a comedy without pandering to the comic. While fully committed throughout her performance, at times she gets too loud and slightly overly emotional. There are points when one does not want to pay attention to Fox because of her tendency to screech at the heights of her monologues. Although Fox’s performance is no doubt stellar, these parts perhaps could be toned down.

By painting the walls and floor of the cramped Nick Chapel, this production of “Brilliant Traces,” directed by Lindsey Ford ’05, strongly captures the claustrophobia both characters feel. Towards the end of the play, Henry and Rosannah attempt to run from each other as they have been running away from all of their problems, only to end up back in the place where they started.

Perhaps the only complaint I would have is about the play itself. It seems that in the beginning, there is very little impetus for either character to care about the other.

True, if a stranger were to wander into a person’s house from a snowstorm, most people would take care of that stranger. But these two characters expose too much, too quickly. It may be that the two talk to one another because they need someone to talk to, and don’t care who that someone is; but the initial intimacy still seems forced.

This, however, does not seem to be the fault of either the actors or of the director, but something inherent in the play itself.

Overall, the production is solid. It is a very intimate show in a very intimate space, and the actors have a connection that is evident. At times, Fox tends to overpower her costar, but in the end they are on the same wavelength.

It is a show, ultimately, about human relationships: “The thing about people is, you never know how they’re going to affect you.”

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