|Miranda Wynne and Audrey Cain | Craig Schwartz.|
Rotterdam, written by Jon Brittain and directed by Michael A. Shepperd, takes place in–you guessed it–Rotterdam, a port city in the Netherlands, on New Year's Eve. Nothing stays in Rotterdam for long. It's a port city, after all. A sort of dockyard purgatory where everything and everyone is coming and going. Josh (Ryan Brophy), Lelani (Audrey Cain), Fiona (Ashey Romans), and Alice (Miranda Wynne) have all begun to sprout accidental roots and are starting to feel unsettled.
The play begins with Alice penning an email to her parents to let them know that she's a lesbian and very much in love with Fiona. Inspired by her girlfriend's honesty, Fiona reveals that she's always identified as a man and would like to start outwardly living as one. He begins to go by Adrian. What follows is an incredibly honest dialogue about identity, gender politics, and love.
Along the way, we learn how our four characters ended up in the port city of Rotterdam. Alice took a job there hoping it would lead to a breakup between her and her then-boyfriend, Josh. Brophy's Josh is good-hearted; a civil rights enthusiast's wet dream. We learn that Josh is Adrian's brother, and that Adrian and Alice got together when Adrian decided to pay his brother a visit. Adrian and Alice fell in love, Miranda began to come to terms with her sexual identity, and Josh just... stayed.
Wynne plays up Alice's neurosis in the most charming way possible, making it easy to understand why she is so deeply loved. Because her performance is so heartfelt, it was exhilarating to watch her find her voice and identity.
Romans's portrayal of Fiona/Adrian is honest and exposing. This show would not work without an unapologetic Fiona/Adrian at its center. It was blindingly clear that Roman trusted her castmates, the script, and, unflinchingly, herself, and the integrity of the story was better for it.
Lelani, our fourth character, is a 21-year-old party girl who recently graduated and landed a gig in Rotterdam thanks to one of her father’s friends (who’s, like, “in love with [her] or something”). She lives with him, and his wife and kids, while working for his company, where Alice also works. It takes some time to adjust to Cain's character, perhaps because she is so different from the other three characters on stage. When we are first introduced to Lelani, her movement and speech come off a bit unnatural. But by the end of the first act, her role in relation to everything and everyone else feels like a match made in heaven. Lelani brings the chaos, and Cain knows how to stir things up as only a 21-year-old free spirit can while maintaining her character's likeability.
Lelani teaches the tightly-wound Alice how to loosen up by way of setting off fireworks, dancing in clubs, and snacking on local meatballs. The devil on her shoulder, she speaks directly to Alice's id, a part of herself Alice has worked hard to shove way down. She also confirms for Alice that she is definitely, definitely a lesbian.
The set and lighting are beautiful, thanks to Jeff McLaughlin. The sound (Christopher Moscatiello) is both upbeat and (appropriately) jarring. The combination of the technical elements had me feeling as if I was watching the events unfolding before me from the lounge of a futuristic Dutch club.
Skylight Theatre Company's Rotterdam is playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as a part of the third annual Block Party series. The show runs through April 7.