Rotterdam Redux

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater
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The Skylight Theatre production of Rotterdam is being revived by Center Theatre Group in their Block Party series at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The indelible original cast and creative team are back. And while Jeff McLaughlin’s snappy sets have grown to fit the more expansive real estate of the Douglas stage, the production remains as focused, intimate, and moving as ever. If you didn’t catch it originally, you must go. If you did, treat yourself to a second viewing. My original review is below.

 

2017 has been a good year for playwright Jon Brittain and his timely play Rotterdam. The original British production garnered great reviews, and this year saw an Off-Broadway run, a re-opening of the original production in London, and, now, a Los Angeles premiere.

 

British ex-pats, Alice (Miranda Wynne) and Fiona (Ashley Romans) live an odd form of exile in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. A port city which most people pass through, Rotterdam has been Alice’s home for seven years. She has finally decided to come out to her family and admit that she and Fiona are in a committed relationship. This encourages Fiona to drop the bombshell that she has always felt she is a man and wants to transition.

 

The subject matter could easily become all-too-earnest, or off-puttingly melodramatic. But Brittain’s carefully crafted relationships and incisively witty dialog ensure that the play crackles with life. He cleverly uses familiar tropes from sit-coms and romantic comedies to thrust us into the emotional maelstrom of the characters, while never allowing us to feel disoriented. It is a clever strategy that stresses universality in this very specific situation.

Michael A. Shepperd adds another feather to his directorial cap with this high octane but deeply empathetic production. He is helped enormously by Jeff McLaughlin’s ingenious Rotterdam cityscape set design in which hidden doors and panels offer as many surprises as the narrative. McLaughlin is also responsible for the spot-on lighting, with Christopher Moscatiello’s sound design offering contemporary sounds, including Dutch rap.

Shepperd’s not-so-secret weapon is his perfectly chosen cast. Wynne is a wonderfully human Alice – confused, supportive, and ultimately undone by the messy and unexpected changes in her life. Romans’ brave and truthful performance allows us to understand her relief and her new-found ease with herself as she transitions to Adrian.

Audrey Cain is exotically enticing as Lelani, a workplace acquaintance of Alice who is determined to bring the other woman out of her shell. The relationship of Ryan Brophy’s Josh to Alice and Fiona/Adrian is better left to Brittain’s slow reveal. Suffice it to say that Brophy is an actor who brings such unique perception to every moment on stage that his character feels totally spontaneous.

London bestowed an Olivier Award on Rotterdam, and I predict that this superlative production by the Skylight Theatre Company and Hartshorn-Hook Productions will be a major contender come the awards season.

Through April 7.