THEATER REVIEW: “Brilliant Traces” at the ArcLight Theater

Erica Linderman and William W. Warren are directed by Adam Fitzgerald in We Theater and Iron Jaw Company’s current production of Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces. The play, which runs about eighty minutes long, is an intense two-hander about a bride-to-be and a hermit whose paths cross in the wilds of Alaska.

Kicking off her journey from an Arizonian starting point, Rosannah Deluce (Linderman) rocks up on Henry Harry’s (Warren’s) doorstep; her car has broken down and she’s been trudging through a blizzard in her wedding dress and satin high heels. After an immediate outburst, she collapses. Harry looks after her for while she recovers, an as both are locked in by the blizzard raging outside, they turn to one another for conversation after she awakes.

Originally produced in 1989 with Joan Cusak in the starring role, Brilliant Traces’ strength as a play is Johnson’s willingness to allow her characters room to move in a metaphorical world. They are standing still and yet racing; the frenetic energy felt by a person who suddenly has the world pulled out from under them is palpable as Linderman and Warren speak. And yet it rarely feels like the pace changes, and at times the play becomes so wordy that Johnson’s message seems convoluted. The final dénouement and accompanying realizations are weakened by this, and Harry’s choices, while clearly (from the text) unclear to the character, also seem as if they might be unclear to the performer.

That said, both performers throw themselves into their roles and pursue their characters with exhaustive (and sometimes, exhausting) intensity. Brilliant Traces is a play that explores the reasons why we do what we do, even when we ourselves don’t truly understand what it is we’re exploring.

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