The two rooms
of the title are a windowless cubicle in Beirut where an American hostage
is being held by Arab terrorists and a room in his home in the United
States which his wife has stripped of furniture so that, at least symbolically,
she can share his ordeal. In fact the same room serves for both and is
also the locale for imaginary conversations between the hostage and his
wife, plus the setting for the real talks which she has with a reporter
and a State Department official. The former, an overly ambitious sort
who hopes to develop the situation into a major personal accomplishment,
tries to prod the wife into taking umbrage at what he labels government
ineptitude and inaction, while the State Department representative is
coolly efficient, and even dispassionate, in her attempt to treat the
matter with professional detachment. It is her job to try to make the
wife aware of the larger equation of which the taking of a hostage is
only one element, but as the months inch by it becomes increasingly difficult.
Michael Wells --- Professor and hostage
Lanie Wells --- Michael's Wife
Walker Harris --- Freelance Reporter
Ellen VanOss --- State Department official.
As the title promises, there are "two rooms" in this taut psychodrama— named by Time Magazine as "Best Play of the Year" in 1988. It opens with hostage Michael Wells, a history professor at American University in Beirut, Lebanon, blindfolded in his room, a small windowless cell. The other room lies across the world: the professor's study back in the United States. As the months turn into years and her husband's fate hangs precariously, Mike's wife, Lanie, strips the room to the bare walls in order to feel closer to him. For her, a thin mat she has dragged into his office represents "all the corners of the room," and where she imagines she can speak with—and touch—her missing love.
Written by Lee Blessing in 1988, the play tells a very personal story within the context of global events. Sharing a backdrop of contemporary global events with Blessing's 1987 Broadway play A Walk in the Woods, Two Rooms deals with "the three arguments": the perspective of the individuals , the perspective of the public, and the government.
While the four characters in Blessing's play may represent separate poles of experience, their humanity and humor mark them as more than mere caricature. Lanie, befitting her status as a wife of a hostage, receives regular visits by Ellen VanOss, an officious State Department liaison), who makes a good show of representing the government's position while also betraying a certain amount of sympathy. Lanie is also talking to Walker Harris, a crusading reporter who wants to publicize the Wells' plight and get a good story for himself.
As months go by, Lanie becomes frustrated by the excuses and rationalizations given to her for why the government refuses to negotiate for the release of her husband. When Walker is prevented from going to Beirut by the State Department, Lanie lashes out against government policies, triggering a firestorm in the media and triggering a tragic series of events which brings the play to its startling conclusion.