By Cindy Lou Johnson; Directed by David Newer
Produced by FSC Productions
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 10.1.17
Roy Arias Stage II, 777 Eighth Avenue
by Adrienne Urbanski on 9.21.17
Faust Checho and Lisa Fernandez in Brilliant Traces. Photo by jdx.
BOTTOM LINE: This is an endearing and well-acted production of a play focusing on two damaged people finding hope within one another.
FSC Productions was wise to dust off Cindy Lou Johnson's Brilliant Traces, which first debuted in New York in 1989. In the play, a runaway bride connects with an antisocial hermit in "the middle of nowhere" in snow-filled Alaska, where both seek reprieve from the real world. The quirky characters and plot help prevent Brilliant Traces from becoming mired in any specific decade, making it a play you are certain to remember.
The play opens with Rosannah (Lisa Fernandez), dressed in a wedding dress, banging on the door of a barn house during a blizzard. Receiving no answer, she barges her way in and delivers a manic monologue about having driven for three days straight in a fugue. When she passes out, Henry (Faust Checho), silent this entire time, moves Rosannah into his bed, where she sleeps for two days straight. When she comes to, a comedy of mismatched personalities picks up. However, once the banter dies down and the storm outside keeps Rosannah indoors, the two lay their cards on the table, each revealing why they have ended up where they are now.
Johnson's script hits extremes, veering quickly from mawkish, comedic arguing to sentimental drama. The emotions feel authentic and relatable, especially in the hands of these capable actors, but the sometimes overly sentimental and occasionally wacky dialogue (Rosannah ponders if she was the victim of an alien abduction) can be a bit polarizing. Where Johnson succeeds most is in capturing the pain of everyday life and showing what leads some to pull away from the world as they attempt to heal from trauma.
Veteran stage and screen actor Faust Checho excels as Henry, showing a transformation from stoicism to emotional vulnerability, and pulling off lines that might have sounded over the top in lesser hands. Lisa Fernandez is greener than Checho, and could use some of his subtlety, but still convincingly portrays Rosannah's emotional wounds with success, lighting up the stage with her energy. The power both actors bring to their roles makes it a joy to watch them. Josh Iacovelli's set, replete with a water pump and lanterns, effectively evokes a cozy winter home, allowing the small stage to work to the production's advantage. As Rosannah and Henry reach towards one another in hopes of redemption, it feels authentic enough to make the darkness of our current reality feel a little lighter.
(Brilliant Traces plays at Roy Arias Stage II, 777 8th Avenue, through October 1, 2016. The running time is 90 minutes without an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7; Saturdays and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $18 and are available at brillianttracesplay.com.)
Brilliant Traces is by Cindy Lou Johnson. Directed by David Newer. Set Design is by Josh Iacovelli. Sound Design is by Nathan Shapiro. Fight Coordinator is by Kevin McGuire. Production Stage Manager is Kristine Schlachter.
The cast is Faust Checho and Lisa Fernandez.