Four sets of people live out their lives in the same country house but in different time periods. Talking Band’s The Room Sings, written and directed by Paul Zimet with music composed by Ellen Maddow, is a patchwork of familiar stories about family, relationships and passions.
The room of which the play sings is a kitchen, where we first see middle-aged couple Hope (Abigail Ramsey) and Sidney (Will Badgett) sifting through Hope’s recently deceased mother’s photographs. They are preparing the house for sale and trying to keep Hope’s elderly father, William (James Himelsbach), from falling off the dock into the lake.
Brothers Sal (Andrew Weems) and Al (Joe Roseto) are in their vacation house, a place they use for hunting, fishing and getting away from their demanding jobs. Al’s wife, Loretta (Theresa McCarthy), joins the brothers for a getaway and it appears as though she is about to shake the brothers’ relationship to its core.
Mr. Ma (Henry Yuk) runs a laundry business out of the house and Oskar (Luka Kain) is his young apprentice. Mr. Ma’s recently deceased mother is haunting him and he’s trying to appease her by burning ghost money and ghost food. The naive Oskar is just trying to get used to the older man’s Chinese customs.
An elderly brother (Jack Wetherall) and his older sister (Tina Shepard) bicker at each other until, one night, the fighting comes to a head.
It’s not exactly clear why these stories are strung together as such but The Room Sings is definitely most interesting when the stories intersect, like when in one scene Al discovers fake paper money that has 5 billion dollars written on each bill. In a later scene, we see that Mr. Ma made that “ghost money” to burn for his mother to use in the afterlife.
Some of the technical aspects stand out in this production. The movable set pieces designed by Nic Ularu are wonderful, especially the kitchen windows that change to reveal whatever is on the screen behind it, mostly bucolic scenery of trees and lakes (Baxter Engle). The beaver puppets by Ralph Lee are also remarkable. They are used in a dreamlike sequence at the climax of the play.
The Room Sings shows that no matter who occupies a space, it’s the people with whom we share it that make it home.