Roger and Vanessa
Brett C. Leonard
This rehearsed reading is part of Charm Offensive's ambitious America Now series that has brought eight plays by important young American writers to London. Director Gavin McAlinden was lucky enough to have the support of two fine actors and the presence of a playwright who was really keen to support the project.
As the name suggests, Roger and Vanessa is a two hander - about a married couple from the underside in Brooklyn. Sensitive Roger, played by Stephen Adly Guirgis, is just out of prison and has begun to recapture his relationship with the feisty Latina Vanessa (Elizabeth Rodriguez).
Their initial pleasantries are soon interrupted by an explosion that even in a rehearsed reading with scripts in hands is both convincing and absolutely hilarious. This is a credit to the skills of the two actors.
After all of the insults comes a tender reconciliation, aided by real love and the fact that Vanessa is pregnant. The couple's happiness is apparent, as they seemingly take the first steps towards a new maturity that will see them through the bad times (well maybe).
The packed house at RADA, including a good contingent on a flying visit from New York's LAByrinth Theater, gave this short play a very loud signal of approval. Its mixture of humour, pathos and accurate characterisation was clearly as relevant for an English audience as it should prove to be if it is produced in New York.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher