An Iowa housewife and her mismatched Roommate learn to live together and like it | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

An Iowa housewife and her mismatched Roommate learn to live together and like it 

Stars Sandra Marquez and Ora Jones enliven material well below their pay grade.

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Michael Brosilow

Like a host of contemporary playwrights, New Yorker Jen Silverman hasn't fully discerned the difference between creating characters and assembling signifiers. In her 2015 play, given an unfailingly agreeable Steppenwolf staging under Phylicia Rashad's good-natured direction, she erects two strategically differentiated fiftysomething women from theatrical sign posts. Sharon is Domestic Innocence: an Iowa divorcee who doesn't go out much, thinks most New Yorkers are gay, and uses words like "joshing" with a straight face. Robyn is Exotic Experience: a vegan potter and slam poet from the Bronx who buys vegetables from a co-op and grows her own "medicinal herbs." When Robyn answers Sharon's ad for a roommate, the pair do a fair amount of comedic sitting around displaying their inescapable differences.

The first third of this 90-minute two-hander feels like an excellent sitcom, with abundant nuance provided by Sandra Marquez (Sharon) and Ora Jones (Robyn), two of Chicago's most compelling and thoughtful actors, here enlivening material well below their pay grade. But then Silverman starts injecting dark—well, darkish—elements into the mix, mostly flowing from the nefarious past Robyn is trying to escape, and the pair clash as Sharon makes reckless, ever-more-improbable choices (although none so improbable as scenic designer John Iacovelli's choice to render Sharon's modest kitchen at approximately 500 square feet).

Silverman pushes her characters to what might be a heartrending climax, as one flees and the other collapses. But the play's schematic nature results in mostly unearned sentiment.   v

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