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. 

PERRY YUNG The Harvest

‘Warrior’ Star Perry Yung Cast as Patriarch in Hmong Family Drama ‘The Harvest’ (Exclusive)

Yung will play an aging refugee and war survivor whose condition wreaks havoc on his familyLawrence Yee | October 27, 2021 @ 2:39 PM

perry yung dawn ying yuen chrisna chhor

Photo: Courtesy Perry Yung/Dawn Ying Yuen/Chrisna Chhor

Perry Yung has been cast as the patriarch in the upcoming family drama “The Harvest,” a story about an estranged son who returns home to help his ailing Hmong father, only to be confronted with the intergenerational conflicts and traumas that exist between children and their traditional parents.

“The Harvest” is based off Doua Moua’s own script (the screenplay was a Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist screenplay) and Moua will also star.

Yung will play Cher, an elder refugee and war survivor who suffers the devastating and deteriorating effects that his kidney failure has on his family. He is best known for playing Father Jun in the HBO Max series “Warrior.”

“What makes ‘The Harvest’ film so special beyond the great themes and story, are the characters. Each role so well written, so personal, so authentic, that I saw my own family reflected in each scene,” Yung told TheWrap. “As an older Asian American actor, finding great characters has always been difficult, whether it is in film, television or stage, but to be able to portray a complex Asian American father is a gift; the role of a lifetime actually.”Also Read:
‘Shang-Chi’: The Chinese Customs Explained, From Breakfast Porridge to Guardian Lions

Also attached is Singaporean-American actress Dawn Ying Yuen (“Zoetic,” “My Mother’s Jade”), who will portray Youa, the matriarch of the Moua family. Her role inside the family and clan is just as complex as her life outside it.

“The Harvest shows the culture and values of immigrant parents to the children of American upbringing. It is a narrative necessary for the US audience, to provide deeper understanding of the Hmong community,” Yuen said. “I am deeply honored and excited to be working alongside actors like the experienced Perry Yung, the talented Doua Moua, and the outstanding director Caylee So. I feel that our synergy will be fantastic as we have a real understanding of the immigrant story.”

Newcomer Chrisna Chhor has been cast in the role of Sue, a teenage girl who struggles with finding her voice and her place inside the strict customs of her inherited culture.Also Read:
Doua Moua to Star in Hmong Family Drama ‘The Harvest’ Based on His Own Script (Exclusive)

The film will be directed by Caylee So (“In the Life of Music”). Doua Moua and John Houselog will produce the film under their Chiyou Entertainment banner. Chiyou Entertainment is a new independent production company that seeks to develop and produce diverse stories with the intention of challenging, reflecting and celebrating underrepresented communities.

Moua’s “Mulan” costar Yoson An and Money Vang will be executive producing the film.

Perry Yung is repped by Davien Littlefield Management. Dawn Ying Yuen is repped by Minc Talent. Doua Moua is repped by Creative Talent Company.

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.