Rent Strike:
A Review of Rooms: A Rock Romance

by Tony Phillips

Elton John and Bernie Taupin famously compose their chart-topping hits separately in two rooms. Ian Wallace and Monica P. Miller, the mismatched Scottish couple at the heart of Paul Scott Goodman’s newish musical "rock romance" Rooms, do not.

Monica is brought vividly to life by Leslie Kritzer, who portrayed such a blah young married in last season’s Harvey Fierstein-penned musical A Catered Affair. Doug Kreeger, meanwhile, skillfully underplays the moody Ian, even though the actor’s Playbill bio boasts a stint as "Chita Rivera’s boy-toy."

Onto the mismatch: she’s a "Scottish Jewish Princess," he’s an alcoholic. Somehow these twenty-somethings manage to see beyond their individual pathologies and kick it for a while against the burgeoning backdrop of punk rock Glasgow ’77.

Sid and Nanc they ain’t. The most misbehaving they get up to is traumatizing a baby bisexual during a performance of their bat mitzvah commission when Monica outs the poor child from the stage with gusto and sublime comic timing. She also spits a lot once she transforms into her safety-pinned, alter ego Lillian Filth.

There are some curious choices. Lighting Designer Herrick Goldman seems intent on using every light in New World Stages considerable kit - I didn’t really need to know they had a Union Jack gel - and Adam Koch’s spare set experiences some transatlantic turbulence while shifting continents.

Then there are our two stars that not only speak in a barely comprehensible Scottish burr, but sing in one too. Okay, actors have to have some fun with dialect, but even uber-Scott Annie Lennox sings in the standard spoken English worthy of a primetime newscaster.

But before you can say The Diabolicals - the moniker "Glasgow’s answer to Barbra Streisand" chooses for their punk rock getup - these two land in New York City with a sweet record deal, a single on the radio and a showcase at the now-defunct punk palace CBGB looming.

Do you think the practically agoraphobic Ian will fuck up the gig? Do you think this couple will be reunited years later in a plot contrivance that rivals Madonna’s rhinestone boots in Desperately Seeking Susan? Do you think Monica will wind up on a dreary coffee shop stage folksier, but happier?

If you’re pondering any of these questions, lock yourself in your room. But if you don’t mind a dusty book dragged off the shelf one more time in service of a tightly directed, decent rock score peopled by two of the most liable actors on the boards today - these two manage all the heavy-lifting of shows sporting outsized casts like Rent or Hair with a fraction of the manpower - then book yourself into Rooms.