By Albi Gorn; Directed by Robin Anne Joseph
Part of the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Ran through 8.25.18
Theatre at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street
by Emily Cordes on 8.27.18
Michelle Daneshwar & Jason Beckmann in Jim's Room. Photo by Robin Anne Joseph.
BOTTOM LINE: An outlandish theory illuminates, and complicates, a young couple’s relationship.
Interpersonal chemistry is a powerful, and often baffling, force: we may feel strangely connected to someone we’ve just met, or watch a strong bond dissolve for no apparent reason. The theories surrounding such experiences, from chance to pheromones to fate, yield no clear answers, but encompass our drive to understand that which we cannot explain. Such efforts form the basis of Jim’s Room, as a couple’s self-analysis leads them to unconventional, and unsettling, conclusions.
Meeting cute after a movie, Beau (Jason Beckmann) and Maddie (Michelle Daneshvar) quickly bond over a shared love of cinema, football, and Jewish delis. This rapport, however, proves strangely platonic: after three months of dating, neither can find sexual comfort with the other. Puzzled and distressed, Maddie agrees to let her roommate’s astrologer sister (Jess Erick) read their charts, hoping to gain insight into the pair’s frigidity. An initially skeptical Beau finds himself intrigued by the psychic’s reincarnation theories, leading him to ask about the fate of Jim, his twin brother who died as an infant. When further exploration reveals startling parallels between Jim’s death and Maddie’s birth, Maddie declares herself to be Jim’s reincarnation and this discovery to be the source of their issues. Maddie’s comfort upon meeting Beau’s parents Rachel (Julie Griffin) and Marty (Patrick McGuinness) only strengthens her conviction, as does their willingness to entertain her theory when she reveals it. When the implications of this belief further strain the relationship, Maddie and Beau must face past and future to reevaluate their love.
The premise of Jim’s Room is as fascinating as it is bizarre, and Gorn’s sitcom-like banter eases our suspension of disbelief. Daneshvar finds tenderness in Maddie’s neuroses, desperate to explain away the cracks in her all-too-perfect relationship. After accepting Maddie’s theory, Beau’s renewed desire for her borders on creepy, but Beckmann counters it with genuine struggle in choosing between the woman he loves and the brother he never knew. Griffin and McGuinness convincingly navigate long-buried pain; both are poignant in their warmth towards Maddie and their private moments of grief. Though less developed, the other characters are similarly appealing: Jess Beveridge and Lucas Cain prove apt comic foils as Maddie and Beau’s roommates-turned-lovers Bev and Ron, while Erick and Susan Ward steal their respective scenes as a snarky clairvoyant and opinionated waitress.
Whether or not we believe in past lives, soul mates, or karmic links, Jim’s Room displays our need to define seemingly inexplicable circumstances. Faced with the thrill of desire or reunion, or the pain of death and separation, our search for answers may draw us from accepted reality; taken to extremes, it can complicate healing or push away the people we love. Just as Rachel refers to “Jim’s Room” as the place where lost things go, we are quick to project our hopes, memories, and fears on the unknown, but, as the play implies, sometimes it’s best to trust the mystery.
(Jim's Room played at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, through August 25, 2018. The running time was 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances were 8/22 at 8:30, 8/24 at 5, and 8/25 at 8:30. Tickets were $25 online, $30 at the door. For more information visit broadwayboundfestival.com.)
Jim's Room is by Albi Gorn. Directed by Robin Anne Joseph. Sets, Lighting, Sound and Original Music by Duane Rutter. Production Stage Manager is Julia LaVerde.
The cast is Jason Beckmann, Michelle Daneshvar, Susan Ward, Lucas Kane, Jess Beveridge, Jess Erick, Julie Griffin, and Patrick McGuinness.