Brilliant Traces, Piven Theatre Workshop. Despite its unusual premise–a distraught young woman in a wedding dress stumbles into a lone oil rigger’s remote cabin during a blinding Alaskan snowstorm–Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces has the undeniable atmosphere of a therapist’s office. To distract us from reading ahead in this narrative, the technical team must convince us that there is actually a life-threatening blizzard outside, making the characters’ isolation real rather than metaphorical–no easy task given the potentially comic surrealism of the runaway bride’s entrance. Likewise the actors must keep our attention focused on the human dimension and on the individual revelations that the two misfits gradually extract from each other.

This production reflects the care and patience that have established the Piven Theatre Workshop’s reputation as a superlative actors’ training ground. Under the adroit direction of cofounder Joyce Piven and surrounded by an arctic environment accurate in all details but temperature, Polly Noonan and Daniel Lee Smith deliver their best performances to date. Their concentration on subtextual detail rivets us inextricably to the immediate present, and by the end our emotional investment is more than sufficient to render the fairly predictable climax satisfying.

–Mary Shen Barnidge