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January 17, 2005 // UPDATED 1:48 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

A view into Two Rooms

Unlike other shows wherein the setting acts as a servant to the play, in Lee Blessing's "Two Rooms," the scene is the story. Blessing's dramatic response to the 1980s Lebanese hostage crisis strongly resonates today.

It's impressive that, almost two decades later, Blessing capably describes the rift between the government and the media and their struggle to outwit each other - a phenomenon we saw following 9-11, too.

Blessing also articulates the psychological side effects of terrorism. He places the symbolic alongside the physical, as "Two Rooms" is the container for a husband-wife team split by dire circumstances.

Lainie Wells' husband Michael is a professor who's taken hostage in Lebanon. Michael confronts his isolation in a cold prison cell (room number one).

The distressed Lainie gets creative as she attempts to draw her distant husband closer. She takes metaphorical measures. Frustrated with failed governmental negotiations and doublespeak, Lainie gets rid of all of the furnishings in her husband's study (room number two). But not because his stuff is a too-painful reminder: she wants to conjure his stark confinement. Almost as penance she dwells in this solitude paralleling his. Like a grieving relative who speaks intimately to a passed-away loved one at the foot of their tombstone, Lainie speaks to her husband from her own cemetery-like prison.

Sadly, regular visits from a State Department liaison and an opportunistic reporter don't relieve her sorrow or release her husband from his captors. When the government prevents Lainie from traveling to Beirut, she becomes increasingly incensed. A media frenzy and further heartbreak ensues, underscoring the tug-o-war between the government and the media over which is really more powerful.

Through January 30; Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (alternately). Theater in the Round, 245 Cedar Ave. $20. 333-3010.

Thirst Theater, part deux

Things got a little out of hand for the actors/playwrights of "Thirst Theater," which features brief mini-dramas that unfold in a bar. In fact, they had to turn people away for their final four sold-out performances this fall at Joe's Garage, 1610 Harmon Pl.

It was a good deal for everyone. While the actors/playwrights found an excuse to eat, mingle and try out some fresh material for varied audiences, they also discovered that attendees were actually eager to see the results of their dramatic experiment. Viewers kind of liked beingtreated like insiders who got a sneak peek into an ongoing rehearsal process.

After all, "Thirst's" unpolished patina was part of the fun. Shamelessly, the actors/playwrights touted the absence of a director or other middlemen who usually stretched out the production schedule.

"Thirst" was pretty informal. There wasn't much in the way of lighting, costume or props; sketches were written in just a few hours and rehearsal time was negligible.

"Thirst's" subjects were easy to relate to: tense individuals unwinding in bars - especially while diners and viewers consumed beers and burgers themselves. Audience members didn't have to be reverently quiet at all times. They could spread out their legs and move around if need be without feeling like they'd draw too much attention to themselves (sometimes it can be intimidating to leave your theater seat). Viewers contributed to the atmosphere and as such, ate, drank and stepped outside to smoke.

Now, for those still hankering for the "Thirst" menu, the troupe is back with another batch of 12 raw skits that'll rotate weekly. The shows are co-sponsored by the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Through Mar. 21; Mondays, 7:30 p.m. Joe's Garage, 1610 Harmon Pl. $10 cover charge. 904-1163.

Anna Pratt can be reached at annapratt@artlover.com