Two strangers, both weary with life, come face to face with awful truths they've tried desperately to hide in Cindy Lou Johnson's play Brilliant Traces. Rosanna de Luce (Deborah L. Sherman) stumbles frozen-to-the-bone, clad in a wedding dress, into the isolated Alaskan barn of self-made hermit, Henry Harry (Peter P. De Leo), who stands shrouded in a large blanket, as ominously quiet as the Grim Reaper. The girl, high-strung, disoriented, and tired, works herself into a tizzy and collapses, much to the dismay of Harry, who painstakingly attends to her. We watch him wash her with excruciating care, halting the action and making the audience restless. But fear not. There's entertainment to be had. The two are soon engaged in amusingly nonsensical banter as they try to understand each other, talking in staccato bursts, plowing over such apparently useless information as what happened to Rosanna's shoes. Wanting to be left alone but trapped by the nothingness outside in the whiteout, they are forced to reveal the best and worst of their humanity. Rosanna acts the naughty child, with crossed arms and rebellious outbursts. A bearded and nonsocialized Harry follows suit, withdrawing and advancing as if in a chess match. The moody exchanges keep the show engaging as we wait to know why Rosanna didn't get married and why Harry is alone in the Alaskan wilderness. The answers are much more shocking and psychologically penetrating than it might seem. When the truth is finally revealed, every seemingly useless action that took place before fits into place and makes this exploration into human pain make sense. The trace of brilliance in this piece is not evident until the end, and the passionate, gut-wrenching examination leaves cast members and audience pleasantly exhausted. (Through June 6 at the Hollywood Playhouse, 2640 Washington St., Hollywood, 954-922-0404.) -- Rachel Galvin
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