You may be able to see tiny MetroStage on North Royal Street vibrating to the beat of a new rock musical that is getting its world premiere inside. It isn’t that the music is all that loud – although it can reach a punk-rock-worthy peak at times – it is the intensity of the two performers backed by four musicians as they work their way through about one hundred minutes of strongly structured story and song.
"Rooms" by Scotland-born rocker/composer/playwright Paul Scott Goodman and his wife actor/director/playwright Miriam Gordon is a semi-autobiographical look back at their early days transitioning from Glasgow to London to New York and back again. (They have finally settled down in the Soho neighborhood of New York City where they both develop musicals.)
The play is fairly traditional in structure (boy and girl meet, fall in love, team up but break up only to get back together) but with a unique mix of the Scottish blend of skepticism and romanticism and a score of punk rock and lyrical ballads.
Produced jointly by MetroStage and GEVA Theatre Center in Rochester, NY and the participation of New York based production companies, the resources devoted to the piece are all first rate.
Natascia Diaz is the girl in question. She’s fresh off the stage of Signature Theatre in Arlington where she had the title role in Kander and Ebb’s "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Local audiences also know her for her work as Anita in West Side Story at Wolf Trap last summer and as Petra in the Sondheim Celebration revival of "A Little Night Music" at the Kennedy Center. She’s a Broadway veteran, having been in the companies of "Carousel," "Capeman," "Seussical" and "Man of LaMancha."
Her co-star here is Doug Kreeger who is no stranger to a Broadway stage himself. He was in the company of the recent revival of "Les Misérables." Locally, he too is fresh from Arlington’s Signature Theatre where he was in "The Visit," the final production of their Kander and Ebb celebration.
Both hold the stage at MetroStage with uncommon intensity, creating in the short space of the one-act musical fully formed characters with a strong attraction to each other. The chemistry between them is superb. In addition, each handles solos with strength and style.
Well known director Scott Schwartz, who guided the development of "Tick, Tick … Boom!" is at the helm here and has polished the production nicely.
While the entire design team has done sharp work here, most notable is the set design of Adam Koch. While the story takes place in multiple locations, he has devised a single set featuring a door on wheels which the cast members rotate into different positions to represent location changes. While the battered white door moves about, the brick back wall remains exposed with two platforms for the musicians, Jenny Cartney conducting from the keyboard to the left and Jon Jester providing driving rock beats from the right. All of this is flanked by a proscenium of faux brick matching the rear wall. Herrick Goldman emphasizes the similarity between the proscenium and the rear wall by lighting all from below in steely, cold blue.
The show starts out at a surprisingly quiet level after a brief overture. This is because the couple’s story hasn’t taken them to London and into the punk-rock world yet. Their first encounters involve a more melodic, acoustic sound. Diaz and Kreeger bring just as much involvement and commitment to the delivery of the softer numbers as they do the hard driving rock which follows.
Throughout, the concentration on story telling never wavers. Each song has a narrative purpose and the story, brief as it is, is tellingly and satisfyingly delivered.
MetroStage has quite a winning production in "Rooms."
<i>Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a website covering theater in the region (<a href=http:// www.PotomacStages.com> www.PotomacStages.com</a>). He can be reached at<a href=mailto: Brad@PotomacStages.com> Brad@PotomacStages.com.