DREAM OF PERFECT SLEEP
by Kevin Kautzman.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 12 July 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 June.
Works like a dream till the younger generation come calling.
Mary’s mind is going, Gene’s body dying. They’re making the best of it, he patient with her perpetual forgetfulness, she trying her hardest, though disposing secretly of her pills.
Tensions surface when their grown-up children arrive, father and son within a few moments of each other demanding the other doesn’t tell them how to live their lives. And the siblings argue over what, if anything, to do about their parents. “We have to do something,” claims Robert. “No, we don’t,” Melissa responds.
His common-sense practicality and her holistic contemplation clash, though he’s not entirely insensitive, nor she above emotion. But they reject the illusion their father presents to their mother, comforting Mary by pretending it’s Christmas. She notices the tree’s fake, but doesn’t suspect the ‘Christmas’ is too.
In line with family tradition presents are opened on Christmas Eve, apart from one big one. Here it stays noticeable beneath the tree, and by the time Gene takes it out to his wife it has acquired a darker resonance, as his purpose in the whole family Christmas charade emerges.
Family judgments are matched by recurring references to faces watching from outside – a product both of the characters’ minds and a hint of the audience sitting either side of the stage. Family life is never free of the sense of being overlooked and judged, even if the actual judgment is internal.
North Dakota playwright Kevin Kautzman tends to over-pattern matters, though the opening between the older couple, played with a sympathetic precision that shows the troubled serenity of people coming to terms with an imminent ending, gives space for the audience to respond more fully to the situation than does the more contrived polarities that come with the younger people.
Mary’s dream of being a Sumerian goddess relates mother to daughter, as the two men share practical assertion. It also introduces some unconvincing movement during moments when Elliot Griggs’ lighting moves from bright to subdued in Max Pappenheim’s production which, otherwise, skilfully intersperses activity and stillness.
There’s skill in Kautzman’s Dream, if it’s accompanied by a rather obvious sense of conscious design.
Mary: Susan Tracy.
Gene: Martin Wimbush.
Robert: Cory English.
Melissa: Lisa Caruccio Came.
Director: Max Pappenheim.
Designer: Holly Seager.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Composer: Angus MacRae.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.