Matt Ross‘s 28 Hotel Rooms, which I saw yesterday afternoon, is a two-character drama about a longterm affair that happens entirely in hotel rooms and never really “goes anywhere,” story-wise. The lovers, richly portrayed by Chris Messin and Marin Ireland, are both attached in the outside world. And yes, naturally, they gradually fall in love with each other.

But they never leave the realm of hotel rooms, and after a while (sometime around the 15th or 18th vignette) this starts to feel confining and unsatisfying. It’s a fairly absorbing film as far as it goes — there’s a spherical world of feeling and experience in Ireland’s eyes alone — but it should been called 18 Hotel Rooms or 21 Hotel Rooms or something along those lines.

I knew I was feeling antsy when Marin’s character announces at the beginning of vignette #20 or #21 that her husband is in the hotel — he’s spontaneously travelled with her to have some romantic-getaway time — so their meeting is off. The instant I heard this I knew I wanted the husband to barge into the hotel room and bust them or plead for understanding or try to beat up Messina. That told me something. I really, really wanted something more than just these two in another hotel room. Which isn’t a putdown of the actors or their performances — far from it. I just needed to escape from the concept.

Ireland is truly a superb actress. I last saw her on-stage two years ago in Neil Labute‘s reasons to be pretty.

28 Rooms director Matt Ross, Messina, Ireland.