By Lorenzo Marchessi
The No Ho Arts Center has a very passionate and personal production of the prolific talents playwright Christopher Knopf. It’s called “The Red Room”. His story is extremely timely and ‘current’ even though this play is set in in the ’Golden Age’ of movie making when studios had contracts with everyone and business was built on reputation. It’s the story of how a family can literally deteriorate in front of each other without even seeing it happen.
The patriarchal father, Edwin, was sharply and forcefully played by Brad Blaisdell. He is a man damaged both emotionally and physically so much so that he can’t even see the even deeper damage that he is doing to himself and his family. Brad gives an almost out-of-body performance that literally layers his character with the angst of his mental breakdown of what his reality actually is.
His wife, Rose, the matriarch of the family seems to be the quintessential mother of the times and tries with great passion to understand her husband and his actions that are ripping the family and their home apart. Played extremely deeply and passionately by Janet Fontaine, her performance will bring compassion and tears to your eyes as you understand her personal pain for her family and her home.
The oldest and most successful brother, Will, but who is never really appreciated by his father is sharply and artistically portrayed by Robert W. Arbogast. Robert’s compassionate delivery for his younger brothers and his concern and deep angst toward his father’s breakdown can be clearly read in performance.
Chad Coe, plays the middle brother David, who is the ‘lost soul’ of this family. Who can’t find his nitch and squanders all the money given to him by his parents. Never landing on his feet and always needing help. Chad makes his confusion and misdirection seems real and honest with his personal performance.
The youngest brother, and most quiet, yet completely focused on his goals and career is played by Lane Compton. Lane gives a subtle and quiet performance that both entices his older brothers and seems to aggravate his father’s requests to no end.
Other notable performance can also be seen from Don Savage (playing Sam), Karesa McElheny (playing the accented Gerde), Jay Willick (playing J.D.) and Alex Robert Holmes (playing Herman) who each contribute their small but poignant points in the story of this broken family both past and present.
The cast is beautifully complimented by the period set designed by Dove Huntley who not only captured the color and period of the time but made you feel like you were right there in their living room feeling each characters pain in living color. Shon Leblanc’s costuming also complimented the performances, ambiance and feel for the entire production. Luke Moyer also did some amazing lighting design that allowed the flashbacks to feel visceral in the context of relating to the past of the father losing himself and his family.
The play is a wonderful representation of what money, power and fame can due to the basic family unit. Making times, events and even people estranged from each other to the point where no one even hears what the other is saying, even if their your immediate family.
“The Red Room” is a touching play with an amazing cast of ensemble performances that will make you think more internally about your own relationships with your immediate family. A strong dramatic piece that is not for the weak of soul or passion!