David Wiener”™s heartbreaking play Extraordinary Chambers drops a troubled North American couple into present-day Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and lets that country”™s grim past stain their lives and future.
Review by Pauline Adamek
Marin Hinkle (from TV”™s Two and a Half Men) and Mather Zickel (Rachel Getting Married) play Mara and Carter, the American couple at the center of the story. He works for a telecommunications company that is hoping to expand into South East Asia. She”™s joined her husband on the trip to this exotic land that he hopes will also somehow be a bit of a romantic getaway despite its business focus.
But Mara”™s a neurotic, prickly traveler and their squabbles hint at a deeper issue”¦ The pair is assisted by a local guide, a young fellow named Sopoan (Greg Watanabe), and later are entertained by a high-powered Cambodian businessman, Dr Heng, and his wife (played by Francois Chau and Kimiko Gelman, respectively). Dr Heng is a wealthy and erudite entrepreneur who serves as a “˜facilitator,”™ which means he can obtain the necessary local permits and arrange important introductions to usher Carter”™s business deal through to its completion.
When news breaks that a war crimes tribunal is calling Dr Heng in for questioning over his possible role during the dark, murderous days of the Khmer Rouge, Mara and Carter find themselves caught up in a scheme that promises to save them all.
While Wiener deftly weaves his stories and compelling themes together, the balance of the play alters as the importance of the business deal becomes eclipsed by more pressing matters, until it loses its significance entirely. So while the various stakes are high, the sense of urgency is re-routed yet sapped by this subtle shift.
Also, if none of the actors are doubling roles, some confusion (and implausibility) arises regarding the past life of Dr Heng”™s wife, Rom Chang.
Intercut scenes of Sopoan giving evidence at the tribunal are chilling and difficult to endure, thanks to Greg Watanabe”™s poignant performance. The emotional wallop that concludes this fine and subtle play is its grace note.
Geffen Playhouse – in the Audrey Skirball Theatre
10866 Le Conte Ave., Westwood.
Runs until Sunday, July 3, 2011
Tue.-Fri, 8 p.m.;
Sat., 3pm and 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2pm and 7 p.m.
Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
are $69.00, plus booking charges.
Purchase here or call the box office on (310) 208-5454
ABOUT THE GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE
The Geffen Playhouse has been a hub of the Los Angeles theater scene since opening its doors in 1995. Noted for its intimacy and celebrated for its world-renowned mix of classic and contemporary plays, provocative new works and musicals, the Geffen Playhouse continues to present a body of work that has garnered national recognition. Named in honor of entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen, who made the initial donation to the theater, the company is helmed by Producing Director and President of the Board Gilbert Cates, Artistic Director Randall Arney, Managing Director Ken Novice and Chairman of the Board Frank Mancuso. Proudly associated with UCLA, the Geffen Playhouse welcomes an audience of more than 130,000 each year, and maintains an extensive education and outreach program, designed to engage young people and the community at large in the arts. For more information, please visit their official site.