Hollywood Fringe 2019
Sworn enemies must cooperate with each other to survive.
Last year, writer and actor Kelley Pierre was one of the three creative minds to bring the fantastic award-winning “Laertes Loves Hamlet Loves Ophelia” to the Fringe. This year, she’s back with a script of her very own that falls somewhere between the existential anxiety of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and the novel craze of making it out of an escape room.
Thyma (Pierre) and Aspid (Sam Sheeks) are both thrust through opposing doors into one room where immediately they are forced to confront each other over some unfinished business. They don’t know what they’re doing in this room, and therefore, neither does the audience. But gradually, as they unleash what feels like a lifetime worth of bad blood, they also figure out how to get out of there before it’s too late.
Taking place in one of the smaller venues at Fringe and clocking in at around thirty minutes, “The Same Room” packs a lot of ideas into a small space and a small timeframe. Effective use is made from the bare, but necessary set design of two doors with lightbulbs hovering above them. Pierre and Sheeks do an excellent job as the two women figuring out the puzzle while they’re also seething at each other. Director Scott Golden keeps the drama flowing at every turn (helped in no small part by Nikki Muller’s fight choreography).
Conceptually, this show makes for an inspired parable about getting over your grudges for the greater good; as applicable for society as a whole as much as for the relationship between any two individuals. My only gripe here is with Pierre’s script which, though well-written, never clearly identifies what the relationship is between these two women. That choice feels intentional, but I was waiting to find out who these people are to each other, what bad deeds need to be forgiven, and what damage needs to be repaired before moving forward. A lot is left unsaid.
Nevertheless, the story builds, the escape room device gets to your heart, and I left believing that with further development, “The Same Room” could make for a dynamic hour-long two-hander. In other words, an ideal Fringe show. -ZACHARY BERNSTEIN