DeGeorge’s aesthetically pleasing take on a Strindberg classic is a symbiotic work of art.
If you didn’t know that “A Dream Play” was a) written in 1901 and b) Swedish and thus translated into English, you might suspect that you were watching a pretentious play about . . . well, you probably wouldn’t know. I’ve seen enough theatre and studied enough literary criticism to get that this is a play about humanity and suffering. But knowing that the playwright wrote it following a near-psychotic episode, in which he was paranoid about witches trying to murder him and that all women were out to get him, well . . . it provides much-needed context to fully understand the piece.
Without the context, though, director Vince DeGeorge does a beautiful job of mixing drama with comedy, bringing out the best in the actors that were cast, and giving the audience something pretty to look at throughout the production. DeGeorge, who primarily directs in the musical theatre and opera departments (he is the Joseph Weinberger Chair of Acting for the Lyrical Stage, after all), gets a new set of students to engage with this semester with this assignment – and I hope we see more crossover between departments. (I’m waiting for a musical directed by Susan Felder with Vince or Diane Lala as choreographer. Reserve. My. Seat. Now.)
The story of A Dream Play is a loose one. (It’s expressionistic and surrealist, so the story is secondary to the art form). Basically, a Daughter of the gods descends to Earth to get an understanding of the problems of human beings, but in the context of a dream. While on Earth, she meets a lot of different characters (with the ensemble playing multiple roles). She herself is enmeshed in an unhappy marriage. Finally, after experiencing all sorts of human suffering (poverty, cruelty, and the routine of family life), she decides that human beings are to be pitied. Finally, she returns to Heaven, and the dream ends.
This moment, which features the best staging and one of the most unique endings to a studio production that I’ve seen at CCM – corresponds to the awakening from a dream-like sequence of events. And everything about it jars us back to reality.
The ensemble worked together cohesively and enthusiastically. Sydni Charity Solomon, Nathan Flesh, Lydia Noll, Ava Panagopoulos, Nick Casey, Luke Danni, Cassandra Reeves, Becca Anderson, Austin James Cleri, and Madi Burnett brought the words to life through movement and spoken word.
I found myself especially drawn to the work of Solomon, Flesh, Noll, and Cleri – whose comedic chops served him well midway through the show and gave us a great comedic interlude as he played multiple characters almost without taking a breath.
DeGeorge, who is a creative choreographer, introduced several moments of physicality that helped break up the dialogue while not slowing the production down. The one-hundred-minute run time delivers as promised, a rarity for CCM productions whose runtimes are usually grossly underestimated in the programs.
This production also benefits from innovative lighting (Kate Ingram) and sound designs (Aaron Harris Woodstein.) Abigail Heyd takes advantage of the Studio black box nicely with her set design, and props master Suzanne Barnes has her work cut out for her with vital items on stage that must be in the right place at the right time. The costumes by Miranda Cotman looked to be designed to be formal yet functional, and I did enjoy the cohesiveness of the look.
“A Dream Play” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It isn’t something I’d run back to see again, either. But I appreciate that in university settings, productions must tick a few boxes – theatrical historical significance, opportunities to cast as many students as possible, and at least once in a while to do something experimental and out of the box.
A Dream Play works on all of those levels, for sure.
A DREAM PLAY runs through Sunday afternoon at CCM. Get tickets here.