REVIEW: Association of Controlled Dreamers

I love a good new work, especially one that is contemporary and serves its purpose well.  ASSOCIATION OF CONTROLLED DREAMERS was the final Studio play this year and it was a perfect fit for the students in the acting program at CCM.  Of course, it should be since it was commissioned by director Brant Russell and the acting department. Playwright MJ Kauffman, also had the benefit of having the new script work shopped by some of the best trained actors in the region.  It shows.

The story is complicated and would rival a great modern political thriller film. Sometimes that won’t work on stage, but Russell keeps the story at the center while still adding touches that remind us he’s at the helm (for those keen-eyed audience members who’ve enjoyed his work in the past).  I won’t spoil any plot points but there’s an evil Senator with a rebel twin. There’s a group of progressively minded students, protesting the injustices they see. There’s a sick mother, an indictment of religious hypocrisy, and a secret girlfriend.  It’s a giant cast, as modern plays go, with no weak links.  There are subtle moments of comedy, with witty one-liners and bits that are so sharp you wonder if any of it was ad-libbed or if the playwright is just that hip and in tune. Probably she’s smart enough to steal from the actors when something works well in the workshop process.

This is truly and ensemble piece and each member of the cast is integral in telling the story.  There are some characters featured more than others, of course.  Matt Fox as both the Senator and his twin does a remarkable job keeping distinction between the characters.  Yes, his wardrobe helps, but so does his characterizations.  Reid Robison is brilliant in his supporting role as Edward and the chemistry between Jason Pavolovich and Cameron Nalley is striking.  Sydney Miller’s over the top sincerity as Rhonda is a highlight, too, and Amanda Nelson’s restrained, but emotional performance as Mother belies real acting talent.  Finally, Dan DeGroh’s original and live piano soundtrack is a novel concept and extremely well executed.

I enjoyed this production a lot and I’m glad to see the students getting a chance to play characters that are age appropriate in a story that is also relevant.  I could imagine this ensemble voting to produce this piece if they were in charge of selecting.  It’s nice to see millennials championed for their strengths instead of being maligned for their perceived flaws. I also especially enjoyed Russell’s director’s notes in the program.  Inspiration all around!

CAST:

  • Rin Wallace as Brittany
  • Annie Jacques as Tara
  • Paige Jordan as Vera
  • Zoe Cotzias as Amber
  • Michelle Jardine as Amaryllis
  • Madison Pullman as Mary
  • Amanda Nelson as Mother
  • Briley Oakley as Social Media
  • Sierra Coachman as Secret Girlfriend
  • Cameron Nalley as Sammy
  • Jason Pavlovich as Tom
  • Reid Robison as Edward
  • Matt Fox as Senator/Twin
  • Frankie Chuter as Job Man
  • Sydney Miles as Rhonda/Hope
  • Brant Russell, director
  • Andrew Wright, lighting designer
  • Hannah Gruneisen, master electrician
  • Maya Hughes, assistant master electrician/board operator
  • Will Graham, stage manager
  • Cole Nevins, assistant stage manager
  • Leah Berry, production assistant
  • Emma Heath, production assistant
  • Ryan Hurt, sound designer
  • Dan DeGroh, composer/musician