Brilliant Traces – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Chad Martin and Kate Graham in Atlanta's Synchronicity Theatre's Brilliant Traces

Chad Martin and Kate Graham in Brilliant Traces. Photo by Chris Bartelski

How does one overcome an emotionally taxing and devastating experience? Some may withdraw and others run away to escape. The production of Brilliant Traces by Synchronicity Theatre offers a chance to explore these inner emotions.  A deep character study, the play dives into the collision of two emotionally devastated characters.

Set is a desolate Alaskan cabin, Cindy Lou Johnson’s play begins and ends similarly – jarring. Breaking the darkness and silence of the theatre, Rosannah (Kate Graham) bangs on the door and yells for help while Henry (Chad Martin) raises from his sleep a bit frightened. When she lets herself into the cabin, she enters dressed in a wedding gown, immediately drawing interest into her situation. Rosannah rambles about her situation and explains how she braved a snow storm to find help after her car broke down, only to eventually pass out.

From that moment, the light moments end, and the play becomes darker. The secrets each character harbors eventually become known to explain how each character has gotten to this point in their lives. Harry is a hermit, and his solitary existence is jolted by Rosannah’s entrance into his existence. As the two butt heads, their emotional journeys collide to open up emotional baggage.

A sort of crucible, the play weaves disjointed diatribes into a haunting, very real story. Johnson’s script seems as though it could use another draft to tie everything together. Through the two broken characters, it depicts the messiness of life and the fact that many people wish they could run away from the insanity of everyday living. However, it doesn’t reach a satisfying conclusion. Under Rachel May’s direction, the production salvages the flaws in the script and works together to show the message of the play.

Martin’s strong performance as the reclusive Harry contrasts well with the neurotic Rosannah. In the first few scenes, he does not utter a word, yet the audience learns much about the character. Through intense emotion, displayed through painful expressions and compassionate acts, he impresses with his ability to speak volumes through his actions.

As Rosanna, Graham transitions well from her comedic moments at the beginning of the play to a more serious demeanor later in the play. Her portrayal of the character, though, is uneven. Her over-the-top intensity during some scenes detracts from the moments of greatness she displays in others. However, she wins the audience’s sympathy and keeps it genuinely interested in the character’s situation.

Playing a verbal tennis match throughout much of the play, the two actors work well together. Each builds on the other’s emotions and tightens the tension well. Under less skilled talent, both acting and directing, these characters would not be sympathetic, but both Graham and Martin bring the needed humanity to each role.

Lighting designer Katie McCreary and Sound Designer Kristen Von Heinzemeyer have created elements that work well together to create the chilling atmosphere of the play, and Jeffrey Martin’s scenic design adds to the barrenness that is presented.

An intense emotional roller coaster that will leave you thinking, Synchronicity Theatre’s production of Brilliant Traces runs through March 25 at the Seven Stages Back Stage Theatre. For tickets and more information, please call 404-484-8636 or visit Synchronicity Theatre’s website. The show runs for 90 minutes with no intermission.