REVIEW: What If?'s roger&tom is a terrific sleight-of-hand, black-box brainteaser
by Maura Hogan for Charleston City Paper
It's particularly tricky to write a review of roger&tom, Julien Schwab's quick and brilliant brainteaser of a play that is now in its regional premiere, thanks to a spirited staging by What If? Productions at Threshold Rep. In a trim and hypnotic 70 minutes, Schwab adroitly sets up and then repeatedly reneges on every contract he makes with the audience — and among its characters. Yes, roger&tom seriously toys with your mental faculties. But don't worry: You'll like it.
The playwright has quite ingeniously tied my hands. If I pull back the curtain to reveal too much of this ever-pivoting piece of theater, I would do you a disservice greater than the simple deployment of a spoiler. I'd erode the sleight of hand that the playwright has meticulously, metaphysically constructed. And you really don't want me to do that, because roger&tom is a mind trip best taken unawares and well worth the dizzying side effects.
While the work's unexpected turns may result in cognitive whiplash, the shape-shifting nature of the play emphatically succeeds. First, the play unpacks the whys and wherefores of modern theater, a topic increasingly relevant in light of Charleston's growing black-box scene. At the same time, it demonstrates just how tenuous any perceived hold on reality is — on stage or otherwise — since our realities are frequently built on the vital lies that we all choose to indulge...
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