Nancy Murray reviews Welcome To the White Room from Glass Mind Theatre
The Glass Mind Theatre (GMT) Company has opened their fifth season with a world premier of Welcome to the White Room by New York playwright Trish Harnetiaux. The GMT company, comprised of eight of Baltimore’s brightest writers, performers and producers of innovative theater, is determined to deliver performances that will crowd the edges of our comfort zones, tickle our fancies and point directly to those little character quirks that bring out the best and worst in all of us.
Each season offers four or five performances. In their inaugural year they only offered two shows, so that is lovingly referred to as ‘Season .5’. From the beginning, they have consistently delivered funny, thought provoking productions which respond to a different cohesive theme for each season. Season 5’s theme is BOUND and in it GMT will explore the laws, loves and obligations that bind us and how the ways in which we honor or break the bonds define us as people.
Past themes were: Season 1- Connect (2010-2011); Season 2- Arrivals & Departures (2011-2012); Season 3- Classics Resketched (2012-2013); and, Season 4- National Bohemia (2013-2014). The plays, more often than not, are original works with interactive concepts. They have been produced in various theaters and spaces though-out Baltimore such as Area 405, The Strand, Autograph Playhouse, and EMP Collective to name a few.
This traveling band can sometimes run into difficulties when a space they have reserved and counted on pulls out due to scheduling conflicts. This happened just before their opening of Welcome to the White Room but the troupe is adept at adaptation so they set up and ran their show at Gallery 788, run by Eduardo Rodriguez. According to the website, “Gallery 788 is an adaptive arts organization dedicated to presenting the breadth of artistic production unique to the region.” This made them a perfect host for GMT.
Welcome to the White Room has a minimal set designed by Michelle Datz, consisting of three white screens, a white door, and a podium. The gallery’s most recent visual art show was still hanging on the surrounding walls so guests were milling about sipping wine and discussing the art when the show’s first discordant sounds, designed by Brad Ranno, began to seep into the ambience. As the music grew louder, patrons moved toward their seats.
The tone was hypnotic. Ms. White, played by Jessica Ruth Baker, Mr. Paine, played by Eric Park and Jennings, played by Kevin Griffin Moreno made a fascinating triad of genius. They begin by nodding their respect for the others’ reputations. In a fast exchange of dialogue, we learn that all three are brilliant game designers that are taking the gaming experience to a level never experienced before. They have been called to the White Room to crack the secrets of several games being played at their expense.
The director, Chris Cotterman, notes that games are about problem solving and making sense of a world that’s not your world. This is an excellent way to frame the storyline of Harnetiaux’s work. The audience listens to the three brilliant thinkers try to understand what is expected of them. Why did Mr. Paine see and reach for the purple rope when he was transported into another consciousness via Mrs. White’s invention? Why do both men see blank notes when Ms. White can easily read the writing on them? Who is sending secret clues through the mail slot of the white door?
Even though we don’t understand what is happening, we enjoy witnessing the thought process of these three charismatic individuals discussing, for example, the mysterious connections between a simple deck of cards and the weeks, months, and lunar cycles of a year or watching them tango their way into a theory about ways to tap into the adrenaline that stirs just before a kiss. It is fun to watch this play and the performers are equally matched. Their chemistry is palpable.
When the door finally opens into the White Room, Patrick, played by Justin Lawson Isett, is the least likely person we might have imagined as the controller of these games. He is slovenly and disheveled. He is not too bright either, probably due to the fact that he has been locked in his apartment for 14 years doing nothing but playing games. But it is Patrick who has called the others to help him find a way to feel alive again. He wants to know which game will bring him the most intense satisfaction. He wants to see the final room and I will leave it at that, because the end is completely unpredictable and it would be a disservice to both playwright and audience to reveal it before they have witnessed the games.
Author Nancy Murray is a writer, theater director, and arts critic.
For more information about this performance click here.
* Friday, 11/14 at 8pm and Sunday, 11/16 at 4pm
* Friday, 11/21 at 8pm, Saturday, 11/22 at 6pm, and Sunday, 11/23 at 2pm
* Friday, 12/5 at 8pm and Sunday, 12/7 at 7pm
* Saturday, 12/13 at 8pm and Sunday, 12/14 at 4pm