Joh Hartog Productions
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 05 Oct 2019

Review by Anthony Vawser

Two people, each carrying the burden of their own painful past, precarious present, and uncertain future, wake up one frozen morning as unexpected and unlikely roommates in an isolated, snowed-in cabin…

The man has his own as-yet private and personal reasons for being there in the first place, while the woman’s situation can be correctly guessed by her wedding-gown attire even if her presence seems almost hilariously unlikely – and if weather conditions are going to remove their immediate ability to leave, then for the sake of survival and sanity, these two individuals will need to break down their self-made walls and let each other in.

Such a scenario ought to have made for a potentially riveting two-character drama in close quarters. Somehow, though, once past the intriguing and moody curtain-raiser, “Brilliant Traces” plays its story out with an increasingly unsatisfactory air of artificiality that overpowers the intended level of realistic insight.

Joh Hartog has designed a quite marvellous-looking (and authentic-seeming) stage set to house the two actors for the entirety of this show’s uninterrupted eighty minutes. Stephen Dean’s sound and lighting designs are sparingly used but strikingly effective.

Hartog’s direction, though generally economical and brisk of pace, gives perhaps just a little too much leeway to Krystal Brock’s talkative, emotionally extravagant Rosannah, who tends to dominate proceedings in a way that comes to feel unhelpfully out-of-balance. Brendan Cooney’s more reticent and rational Henry provides “Brilliant Traces” with a necessary level of grounding, though even this actor’s fine work struggles to shake off the rather predictable nature of his character’s story arc.

Perhaps the particular interplay between this pair of character types, and their struggle towards mutual revelation and acceptance, seemed fresher when the play was first written (by Cindy Lou Johnson) and produced, but too much of what transpires here carries a sense of familiarity that borders on cliché. Thankfully, “Brilliant Traces” ends even more strongly than it begins, reaching a point of chemistry and catharsis that feels both genuine and healing.