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Off-Broadway Review

Room

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Room
Photo Source: AJ Zanyk/Wexner Center
Memory and existence are pondered heavily in "Room," an impressionistic and overaffected one-woman show based on the writings of Virginia Woolf.

Ellen Lauren originated the role of Woolf in the initial New York production 11 years ago and returns to furnish a canny performance here, though it often clashes with director Anne Bogart's unnatural décor. But there are also times when the feng shui feels just right, and in those moments "Room" can be a perfectly decorated residence for the English author's fiery spirit.

Woolf sets out to address an all-female audience on the subjects of women and fiction, a lecture she frequently mangles into long-form riffs on her childhood memories and impassioned rails against the ominous, cluttered nature of modern reality. Woolf's philosophy is that recording experiences in her writing crystallizes them in the mind, thereby robbing them of their frightening mystery.

The verbose script has been compiled from Woolf's esoteric writings by Jocelyn Clarke and perhaps tries to crystallize too much. Woolf's thoughts on T. S. Eliot and other writers, gender roles, and the ideal "shape" of a novel are all dryly expounded upon before reaching an exhilarating crescendo about using art to discover the living pattern behind the obscuring "cotton wool" of day-to-day life.

Though occasionally a little rigid, Lauren relaxes nicely into the text and Woolf's intermittent mania. Audiences are continually beckoned into the experience by the famous writer's clearly worded lead-ins, which rib demurely about women in society, only to be deviated into lengthy self-enraptured mazes of language describing the sound of the ocean through her nursery window or more abstract notions of consciousness.

Combining the even rhythms of Lauren's delivery with soundscape designer Darron L West's softly twinkling piano music makes for a particularly tedious effect. Scenic designer Neil Patel's huge translucent white scrims offer a nice empty canvas, but Lauren's sharp, repetitive gestures, which surely can be attributed to Bogart, are usually too broad and artificial to do anything other than distract.

Presented by Women's Project and SITI Company at the Julia Miles Theater, 424 W. 55th St., NYC. March 13–27. Tue. and Wed., 7 p.m., Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 and 7:30 p.m. (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250, or www.telecharge.com.  

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