Review: "Brilliant Traces" makes for a cold night

Forget the blizzard raging right outside his isolated hut. He's essentially blinded by another force of nature from within, when, as if out of thin air, a runaway bride named Rosannah Deluce suddenly shows up at his door in need of sanctuary, still wearing the tattered remains of her wedding gown.

Thus begins Cindy Lou Johnson's "Brilliant Traces." On the surface, at least, it's an enigmatic drama about two wounded and drifting souls who chance to cross paths in the middle of nowhere. The deeper the play digs, however, the shakier its grounding. The more we get acquainted with the characters, the more we hear of their sad back stories, the less we really care or want to know.

In artistic director Rachel May's passable Synchronicity Theatre production, Kate Graham is moderately engaging portraying Rosannah early on as a kind of kooky free spirit, prone to chattering about extraterrestrials and out-of-body experiences. But later, when we're meant to take her seriously, the performance is somehow devoid of the necessary warmth or sincerity to move us.

Chad Martin fares slightly better, bringing a basic vulnerability to the role of Henry. In the actor's finest moment, he puts the fainted Rosannah to bed and breaks down in tears at the very sight of her satin shoes. Without saying a word, he expresses more honest emotion than through any and all of his subsequent dialogue. Indeed, as the superficial plot thickens, things seem to flow too easily from Martin to be believed as such an "unsocialized loner."

The Back Stage studio space at 7 Stages can be a tight fit, but Synchronicity's design team does a fairly respectable job of providing a moody atmosphere for the show. Kristen Von Heinzemeyer's soundtrack periodically incorporates gusting winds or a pounding heartbeat. Albeit for no clear rhyme or reason, Katie McCreary's lights often rise and dim from between the cracks of the floor in Jeffery Martin's suitably stark shanty set.

Whatever cosmic connection the characters make, it never fully registers in the work of May's co-stars. Their individual performances are relatively interesting up to a certain point, but together they don't create a lot of chemistry. In essence, Henry and Rosannah could be proverbial ships passing in the night as much as predestined soul mates who might live hopefully (if not exactly happily) ever after.

As the play heightens to include grandiloquent speeches about "peripheral vision" and "invisible scars," about being "frozen" and "encased in ice," and with the bitter chill of life symbolically knocking at the door, "Brilliant Traces" finally leaves us feeling cold in mostly the wrong way.

Theater review

"Brilliant Traces"

Grade: C+

Through March 25. 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays. $18-$25. 7 Stages Back Stage Theatre, 1105 Euclid Ave., Atlanta (in Little Five Points). 404-484-8636.

Bottom line: Lukewarm.

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