Is This A Room


If only she had paused to consider the consequences. If only she had plotted more carefully. If only she had asked for a lawyer.
Throughout the course of its taut 70 minutes, the remarkable Is This A Room, opening tonight at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, prompts a steady, gut-churning stream of “what ifs” as audiences do exactly what whistleblower Reality Winner did during her 2017 FBI interrogation: We second-guess, we attempt to predict, we consider and reconsider every angle, we panic.
Conceived and directed by Tina Satter and performed by a flawless cast headed by Emily DavisIs This A Room presents, verbatim and with every hem, haw, cough and stammer, the initial encounter between several FBI agents – FBI men, it seems necessary to point out – and Winner, the 25-year-old Air Force intelligence specialist and translator who leaked a document about Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to The Intercept website, a seemingly spontaneous move of conscience that would bring a five-year prison sentence.


First presented Off Broadway in 2019, Is This A Room now becomes one of the more unusual entries in this most unusual Broadway season, a short play that will appear in rotation with another short verbatim docu-drama – Dana H., opening next week – on separate nights at the Lyceum Theatre. One might wonder why the two plays aren’t presented as a single, fuller, double-bill evening, but such thoughts won’t intrude as Is This A Room unspools on stage. The note-perfect production simply leaves no space for extraneous imaginings.
Emily Davis, ‘Is This A Room’Chad Batka
Played out on a mostly barren stage with a platform here and there to suggest the Georgia home and yard where the surprise interrogation and search were conducted, Is This A Room begins with the arrival of the young Miss Winner, dressed in cutoff jeans, a man’s white shirt and yellow Converse high-tops, as she returns from grocery shopping. Waiting for her are FBI agents Garrick (Pete Simpson) and Taylor (Will Cobbs). A third agent (Becca Blackwell) will soon join the group, mysterious and mostly silent, but for now, Garrick and Taylor begin the conversation, the former straining to seem pleasant and casual, the latter more stern and vaguely threatening, a good cop-bad cop dynamic no less terrifying for seeming the stuff of television.


Neither of the men, though, seem overtly hostile, though the forced, awkward verbal pleasantries strike a false tone – both for us in the audience and, we’ve no doubt, for the woman who knows her world is about to crumble. She’s soon informed that the agents are investigating a “possible mishandling” of confidential documents, a charge that Winner initially tries to play off as her overuse of office paper.
As the three engage in a verbal dance that stretches, second by second, to excruciating lengths, the subjects meander from pets and gym routines to what has been hanging in the air since the first minute: Winner is suspected, with seemingly airtight evidence, of downloading a classified military document and mailing it to an investigative journalism website.
The play never specifically names the document or the website, briefly fading to black and silence when the transcript reaches a redaction; the audience will either know – or google later – that Winner sent a document outlining Russian involvement in the 2016 elections to The Intercept, and that she was busted when The Intercept submitted the papers to the FBI for verification, leaving the easily traceable identifying marks on the documents that led directly to Winner.
Leaving out those specific, redacted details proves to be a blessing for Is This A Room (the title derives from a nearly surreal non-sequitur uttered by the mysterious third agent). While the encounter is so firmly and unmistakably rooted in the desperate age of Trump, with references to political polarization, Fox News, corruption and fury, the absence of various specifics gives the play its Kafkaesque horror. Nervous, ever on the verge of tears, desperate to parse her way out of both confession and danger, Davis’ Winner is both particular and universal, an individual who can see the weight of the State dangling overhead and descending inch by inch.
It’s a terrifying predicament, made all the more so by the banality of the circumstances. Everyone in this little game with such high stakes is playing a role, and they know it, and they know the others know it. Winner knows Garrick’s compassion isn’t genuine, or at least uncomplicated, but she goes along with the ruse because really what choice does she have? Taylor is fully aware that Winner’s evasions will come to naught, but he lets them play out until they’ve nowhere to go.
Occasionally guards and pretenses are let down, most vividly depicted in Satter’s movement of her actors across the stage. Davis will occasionally turn away from her interlocutors to face the audience, allowing us to see, for precious seconds, the terror on her face and the tears in her eyes. At other times, the agents will move from their studied, too-casual distances to survey their quarry up close, abandoning all pretense of social niceties.
These shifts in tone are perfectly echoed by Thomas Dunn’s dramatic shifts in lighting, and a sound design by Lee Kinney and Sanae Yamada that inspires chills with its moody variations.
Much, though, rests on actors who are asked to deliver the verbatim dialogue, with all its inherent fits and starts, interruptions and weirdnesses, without pushing the conversation into the mannered eccentricity of, say, a David Mamet script. These words must sound authentic yet potent, banal yet ominous. The sensational Davis, making her Broadway debut, pulls it off in what we can assume will be a career-making performance, and she’s matched beat for beat by Cobbs and, especially, the stuttering, coughing Simpson, with Blackwell as the comes-and-goes investigator sprinkling it all with an eerie vibe that seems almost too unsettling to be true. Almost.



You probably know that Dana H. is running in rotation at the Lyceum Theatre with Is This A Room (both played at the Vineyard Theatre pre-pandemic). They make a perfect pair of contemporary formalist plays, a mind-blowing two-show day. Both are built around transcripts about women in peril, the exercise of male energy without compassion, controlling and defining a woman’s body. They are superbly designed and directed spectacles, evoking almost unbearable dread without easy cathartic release. They are feminist stories, but also roam psychological badlands beyond ideology or morality. 
In case I’m not making myself clear: At present, the most exhilarating theater in New York is at the Lyceum. Pray other gatekeepers are inspired by producing triumvirate Matt Ross, Sally Horchow, and Dori Berinstein who, along with a dozen others, moved these productions (which originated variously at the Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group and Vineyard Theatre) to the Main Stem. Time will tell if the Broadway ecosystem can sustain such a high level of artistry and complex storytelling, but for now, let’s enjoy the sense of freedom. 

Peter Stormare Horror Noire October 28 on Shudder

A new Shudder Original anthology film, Horror Noire is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2019 documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror and features new work from both established and emerging talents, showcasing stories of Black horror from Black directors and screenwriters. Anthology writers featured include Tananarive DueSteven BarnesVictor LaValleShernold EdwardsAl Letson and Ezra C. Daniels. Cast featured include Lesley-Ann Brandt (LuciferSpartacus), Luke James (The ChiThoughts of a Colored Man), Erica Ash (Survivor’s RemorseA Black Lady Sketch Show), Brandon Mychal Smith (Four Weddings and a FuneralYou’re the Worst), Sean Patrick Thomas (MacbethThe Curse of La Llorona), Peter Stormare (American GodsFargoMalcolm Barrett (Genius: Aretha FranklinTimeless) and Rachel True (The CraftHalf & Half), among others.

Peter Stormare VO

The movie Making Magic 3D – A Visual Effects Story  that Peter narrated during the spring of 2020 has now won two fine prizes at international filmfestivals. First: “Best 3D Film” at Brno Fulldome Festival in the Czech Republic in Julyand . . . “Best Long Form” in the Domefilm Category at the Macon Film Festival in Macon Georgia in September.

Peter Stormare

Horror Noire – Premieres Thursday, October 28
(Available on Shudder US, Shudder CA, Shudder UKI and Shudder ANZ)

A new Shudder Original anthology film, Horror Noire is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2019 documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror and features new work from both established and emerging talents, showcasing stories of Black horror from Black directors and screenwriters.

Anthology writers featured include Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Victor LaValle, Shernold Edwards, Al Letson and Ezra C. Daniels. Cast featured include Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer, Spartacus), Luke James (The Chi, Thoughts of a Colored Man), Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse, A Black Lady Sketch Show), Brandon Mychal Smith (Four Weddings and a Funeral, You’re the Worst), Sean Patrick Thomas (Macbeth, The Curse of La Llorona), Peter Stormare (American Gods, Fargo,) Malcolm Barrett (Genius: Aretha Franklin, Timeless) and Rachel True (The Craft, Half & Half), among others.

Hamish Allan Headley Mayor of Kingstown Airs November 14th

Mayor of Kingstown

Game of Thrones alum Aidan Gillen and Hamish Allan-Headley (Thinly Veiled) are set as series regulars opposite Jeremy Renner in Mayor of Kingstown, Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming series for Paramount+. Also set for recurring roles are James Jordan (Destroyer), Nishi Munshi (Lethal Weapon), Nichole Galicia (Defiance)Andrew Howard (Perry Mason), Michael Beach (Truth Be Told), Necar Zadegan (NCIS: New Orleans), Jason Kelley, Mandela Van Peebles (Salt N Pepa), Rob Kirkland (Criminal Minds) and Natasha Marc (The Good Lord Bird) in the series from MTV Entertainment Studios. Production is underway in Toronto.


Co-created by Sheridan and Dillon, Mayor of Kingstown follows the McLusky family, power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption and inequality, the series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.

Warrior 3 HBOMax/ Perry Yung


‘Warrior’ Renewed For Season 3, Moving From Cinemax To HBO Max

By Denise Petski

Warrior
‘Warrior’HBO Max

Martial arts crime drama series Warrior has been renewed for a third season and will move from Cinemax to HBO Max.

The series, set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late 19th century, is based on the writings of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. The first two seasons, which aired on Cinemax, now are streaming on HBO Max via HBO platforms.

Warrior is created by and executive produced by Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) under Tropper Ink Productions, executive produced by Star Trek Beyond and Fast & Furious 9 director Justin Lin for Perfect Storm Entertainment, and executive produced by Shannon Lee for Bruce Lee Entertainment.

Warrior introduced viewers to a distinct world from the past, executed with dynamic action and relevant storytelling, with a brilliant cast led by Andrew Koji,” said Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer at HBO and HBO Max. “We can’t wait to see what Jonathan, Justin and Shannon will bring to the next chapter of this series on HBO Max.

Said Shannon Lee, executive producer at Bruce Lee Entertainment: “Justin, Jonathan, and I were thrilled when Warrior was put on HBO platforms to be discovered by a whole new legion of fans. Now we are excited and grateful for the opportunity to do another season, and we applaud HBO Max for understanding the importance of telling this story and for continuing to support this level of representation in our industry. I just know that my father is grinning right now to see this show he dreamed of so long ago continuing to beat the odds. We have every intention of delivering the same high level of meaningful storytelling and Gung Fu action in Season 3.”

The series returned for its 10-episode second season October 2 on Cinemax.

Season 2 cast included Andrew Koji, Kieran Bew, Celine Buckens, Olivia Cheng, Dianne Doan, Dean Jagger, Langley Kirkwood, Maria-Elena Laas, Hoon Lee, Christian McKay, Dustin Nguyen (also directed episode 6), Miranda Raison, Chen Tang, Joe Taslim, Jason Tobin, Joanna Vanderham, Tom Weston-Jones and Perry Yung.

Season 2 of Warrior was produced for Cinemax by Perfect Storm Entertainment, Tropper Ink Productions and Bruce Lee Entertainment; created and executive produced by Jonathan Tropper. Justin Lin, Danielle Woodrow and Andrew Schneider executive produced on behalf of Perfect Storm Entertainment. Shannon Lee executive produced for Bruce Lee Entertainment. Executive produced by Brad Kane and Richard Sharkey and co-executive produced by Kenneth Lin, Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard.

A League of Their Own/Roberta Colindrez

(L-R) Chanté Adams, Melanie Field and Roberta ColindrezShutterstock; Amazon Studios

Amazon has firmed up cast for A League Of Their Own comedy pilot, adding Chanté Adams (Bad Hair) and Roberta Colindrez (Vida) as series regulars, joining previously announced Kelly McCormack (Killjoys) and Priscilla Delgado (Julieta). Also confirmed are Gbemisola Ikumelo (Famalam) and The Good Place alum D’Arcy Carden, who were previously reported to be nearing deals, along with writer-executive producer Abbi Jacobson. Florida Girls‘ Melanie Field is set to recur.

The hourlong pilot, a fresh approach to Penny Marshall’s 1992 feature film, hails from writers/executive producers Jacobson and Will Graham and Sony Pictures TV. The show will follow brand new characters who embody the spirit of a generation of incredible women who dared to play professional baseball. The show begins with the formation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943 and follows our heroes as they fight to keep the League alive through close games, injuries, sexual awakenings and road trips across a rapidly changing United States.

Jacobson will play Carson Shaw, a catcher from a tiny farm town, who suddenly finds herself hopping the train to Chicago to chase a dream she didn’t even know she had.

 

Carden will portray Greta, a first basewoman with unbelievable stretch. Off the field, she’s also effortless, traveling the globe seeking new adventures and liaisons.

Adams is Max, a pitcher with an arm that could make men weep. She is ready for the big leagues and now, she just needs to make her own path there.

Ikumelo will play Clance. Born and raised in Rockford, Clance is Max’s best friend and biggest supporter, and a budding young artist in her ownright.

McCormack is Jess, a shortstop from Moosejaw, Canada, Jess was born to play the game. On the field, Jess feels the most herself and wishes the game would never end.

Colindrez will portray Mita, a cool, calm and collected pitcher from Texas ranch country, Mita’s got a killer poker face, on and off the field. She won’t reveal her secrets easily.

Delgado is Izzy. Straight from Havana, Izzy is the youngest, most enthusiastic Peach.

Field recurs as Jo, a power hitter from Queens, who has survived countless escapades with her best friend, Greta. Boisterous and up for anything, Jo will defend her teammates til the end.

A League of Their Own is produced by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures TV in association with Field Trip Productions. Executive producers are Abbi Jacobson, Will Graham, Hailey Wierengo, and Jamie Babbit, who also directs the pilot.

Adams was most recently seen in Justin Simien’s film Bad Hair, which was in competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. She will next be seen starring in Universal and Stella Meghie’s Valentine’s Day release The Photograph opposite Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. Later this year she will be seen starring in Lionsgate’s feature film Voyager, written and directed by Neil Burger.

Colindrez has been a series regular on Starz’s Vida for the past two seasons and also recurred in seasons two and three of the HBO drama The Deuce. She was previously seen on Amazon comedy I Love Dick. Colindrez also recently starred alongside John Ortiz and Judith Light in Ms. White Light, which premiered at SXSW and won the audience award at the Torino Film Festival 2019. She’s repped by Paradigm and manager Davien Littlefield.

Field currently is one of the leads on Pop TV’s scripted comedy series Florida Girls. She also recently appeared in season two of the hit Netflix series You, and will next be seen in a season-long arc on TNT’s The Alienist sequel The Angel of Darkness, which airs later this year. Her breakout role came as one of the leads in Paramount Network’s Heathers reboot based on the 1988 cult classic film. She’s repped by SDB Partners, Authentic Talent & Literary Management and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller.