Our critics weigh in on local theater

Two Rooms. As the title suggests, Lee Blessing's riveting drama takes place in two rooms, undecorated except for the artistry of the four performers. Blindfolded in Beirut, Michael Wells (Jay Martin) is an American professor taken hostage, forced to endure solitude in darkness in the first room while he relates memories and letters to his wife aloud in monologues rife with imagery and mental anguish. A world apart, the second room is empty of furniture but also filled with frustration and longing. In the stark confines of what we understand to be Michael's old study, his wife, Lanie (Mary McGloin), focuses on her husband and considers what drastic or passive measures she might take to bring him home. Lanie's meditations are repeatedly interrupted by Ellen (A.J. Davenport), the government official assigned to address Lanie's pleas for government action, and Walker (Daveed Diggs), a seemingly sympathetic journalist. These three assertive characters debate the delicate retrieval of a nonmilitary prisoner of war. Each possesses a selfish motive for his or her involvement, rendering the dialogue intense and engaging. Tensions play out beautifully in the understated portrayals by Diggs and McGloin, both of whom depict intelligence and emotional maturity as Walker and Lanie make desperate decisions. That Two Rooms, penned in 1988, is still so relevant speaks to its strength -- and to the persistence of flawed U.S. foreign policies. Custom Made has produced a play that is simultaneously pertinent and worthwhile. Through Feb. 11 at the Off-Market Theater, Stage 205, 965 Mission (between Fifth and Sixth streets), S.F. Tickets are $15-20; call 896-6477 or visit www.custommade.org. (Emily Forbes) Reviewed Feb. 1.

Also Playing

9 Parts of Desire Berkeley Repertory's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Mason), 321-2900.

Around the World in 80 Days Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic (at Locust), Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469.

BATS: Sunday Players Fort Mason, Bldg. B, Marina & Buchanan, 474-6776.

Beach Blanket Babylon Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Beyond Therapy Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Big City Improv Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Clean House Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro (at Mercy), Mountain View, 650-903-6000.

D*Face New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Dick n' Dubya Show: A Republican Outreach Cabaret The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Family Alchemy Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.

from okra to greens/a different kinda love story Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter (at Mason), 474-8800.

GayProv Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

Hamlet La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.

Happiness The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

How We First Met The Purple Onion, 140 Columbus (at Pacific), 217-8400.

The Immigrant San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio (at South Third St.), San Jose, 408-367-7255.

Improv Revolution Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

In on It The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 587-4465.

"Intrigue in the Mansion: Murder Mystery Dinner" The Archbishop's Mansion, 1000 Fulton (at Steiner), 563-7872.

Lil' Bit in Love: Love Songs From Broadway Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.

Love, Chaos & Dinner Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

Loveplay Old Oakland Theatre, 461 Ninth St. (at Broadway), Oakland, 510-436-5085.

The Master Builder Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.

Miss-matches.com Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Monday Night Improv Jam Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 368-9909.

Monday Night Marsh The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Nero (Another Golden Rome) Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.

New Woman Florence Gould Theater, 34th Ave. & Clement (Palace of the Legion of Honor), 863-3330.

The Night of the Iguana Actors Theatre San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 296-9179.

Sorya! Setsubun Sweetheart! Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

Strange Travel Suggestions Marsh Berkeley, 2118 Allston (at Shattuck), Berkeley.

Theatre District New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Twelfth Night Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman), Berkeley, 510-704-8210.

Uncle Buzzy's Hometown Theater Show Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

"Viva Variety" Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton (at Webster), for more information call 863-0741.

Warsaw Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

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