Adam Cuppy and Hannah Grenfell star in Next Stage Repertory's 'Brilliant Traces.'

'Brilliant Traces'

Runaway bride Rosannah DeLuce needs saving when her car breaks down in the middle of an Alaskan blizzard. She stumbles through snow and wind in her sodden wedding dress and satin slippers until she finds a port in the storm — a tiny, austere cabin occupied by recluse Henry Harry.

Once inside, Rosannah rants cryptically while Henry quietly listens. Then she collapses in a heap of lace on his floor. While she sleeps off her exhaustion, he puts her to bed, finds her some dry clothes and prepares hot soup.

The fun starts in Cindy Lou Johnson's "Brilliant Traces" when Rosannah wakes and the two characters begin a dialogue that reveals just how desperately Henry needs saving, too.

"It's romantic, dramatic, dark and quirky," says Doug Warner, artistic director of Next Stage Repertory Company. "During the course of the play, we discover why chance has brought these two together, why he lives like a hermit and why she left her groom at the altar."

Next Stage's production will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 30 through June 1, in the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.

Rosannah looks at life with an intuitive, feminist perspective, while Henry is more of a logical, literal thinker. The two try to piece together each other's story, while not really speaking the same language.

"None of Rosannah's emotions resonate with Henry," Warner says. "He can't really comprehend what her meaning is. But as the play progresses, they become drawn to each other."

Warner says "Brilliant Traces" was hot stuff back when he first produced it about 20 years ago at Warehouse Repertory Theatre in California.

"It was during a time when a bunch of female playwrights were breaking out, like Cindy Lou Johnson, Tina Howe and Wendy Wasserstein. They were dealing with gender from interesting viewpoints, and they were writing really great plays," he says. "The great writers of the '40s and '50s, like Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, told their stories predominately in the male voice. You hear the male voice in 'Traces,' but there also is a triumphant female voice."

First presented in 1989 by New York City's Circle Repertory Company, "Brilliant Traces" starred Joan Cusack as the wide-eyed, vulnerable and quirky Rosannah and Kevin Anderson — who can shift from comedic to dark and dramatic — as Henry.

"Hannah Grenfell and Adam Cuppy bring those same qualities to the Next Stage production," Warner says. "Hannah explores Rosannah's intuitive voice — 'I'm not sure why I'm doing this, but I know it's the right way to go' — and Adam seems to understand how to hear people without judging or trying to change anyone's point of view. They're both good at comedy and at drama."

A native of Colorado, Grenfell is a 2010 graduate of Southern Oregon University's Theatre Arts Department. Cuppy has called the Rogue Valley home since he graduated from SOU's theater program in 2004.

While breaking down the dialogue between the two characters in "Brilliant Traces," Warner says he didn't want to fall into stereotypes.

"We didn't want to get stuck in some kind of 'Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus' approach. We want to be in the opposite place — where gender is nonspecific — and explore what we attribute to women and men.

"The two characters bring very different ways of reading a map, so to speak, to the table. We see that they are both right. They're not trying to change each other's minds, they're just trying to be heard and understood. When a person feels that no one understands, he or she will be filled with self-doubt.

"The story's entertainment value comes from the fact that Rosannah and Henry are so quirky," Warner says. "But they're open and honest, and they eventually see each other."

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