the cloak room

The Bedroom at Fort Fringe, 612 L Street NW

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 10, at 11 p.m.
Sunday, July 11, at 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 13, at 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 18, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 24, at 9:30 p.m.

They Say: US Premiere! Welsh playwright Tracy Harris excavates the psyche of Mansel, a reclusive hoarder of coats whose collection binds him to their long-lost owners. This haunting two-person drama crackles with yearning, as a woman confronts a man she cannot understand.

Ian’s Take: Tracy Harris’ play takes its time revealing itself, dropping the audience into the titular cloak room as Mansel (JaBen Early) carries on a disjointed dialogue with himself. His focal point is a woman’s coat hanging by itself, and as he switches back and forth between the two sides of the conversation, we begin to understand that it’s the previous owner of this coat that he’s talking to, replaying an anguished drama from his past that won’t release its grasp on him. When he slides his arm into the coat and touches his own face, its a gesture as loving as a mother trying to comfort her child.

Other coats in the room carry the same totemic significance, as Mansel forces himself to relive the most painful conversations of his life, paying penance over and over for his role in the death of a childhood friend or facing again the absence of his father. His girlfriend, Ruby (K. Clare Johnson), is rightly worried about Mansel’s all-consuming delusions, and forces him to make a choice when he becomes so lost in these nightmare delusions that their relationship can’t bear the strain anymore.

Early is mesmerizing in a role that requires him to bottle multiple characters inside the troubled head of one man wracked by guilt and his inability to come to terms with his own history. Of course, he can’t live in the then and the now simultaneously; something has to give. This hauntingly realized production makes a sometimes disturbing case for just how important it is to let go of the past if one is to make way for any kind of future.

See It If: You hear voices speaking to you from the coat racks every time you browse in a thrift store.

Skip It If: The voices tell you to do bad things.