John Patrick Shanley is an Oscar/Tony/Pulitzer prize winning playwright and after viewing this production of The Dreamer Examines His Pillow I can easily see why.
His writing is beautifully introspective in a kind of external way. His characters - in this play at least - are seeking knowledge and understanding on a level they don't often understand, or can't easily access.
It is their external attempts to communicate this with each other that produces interactions that are both intimate and universal.
In "Dreamer" we open with Tommy, down on himself and life in general and holed up in his filthy apartment. Tommy has a lot of questions but not many answers. Donna soon arrives in a fury. She too has questions but lacks answers. Internally both of them are extremely conflicted individuals almost cruelly bound together by an obvious bond of love they share towards one another.
Having slept with Donna's 16 year old sister Mona, there is an obvious dramatic element here to pursue, and yet Shanley's script focuses on much deeper issues than cheating, delving into the depth and darkness of what it is that makes us human. What are we actually here for? What is the point of all this angst in our lives?
Unsatisfied with Tommy's answers, Donna heads over to her father, still mourning the loss of his wife despite the fact that he berated her while she was alive. Donna wants him to speak to Tommy, and if he can't make him see sense, then to at least beat him up until he does.
Donna asks several questions of her father and they continue to verbally interrogate each other until Donna gets a commitment from him that he will visit Tommy.
In the final scene, Tommy is confronted by Donna's father as we delve deeper into the darkness of this trio's souls to ultimately discover we are not all that different when all is said and done.
I loved the somewhat surprise ending, although the final moments could have been signaled better with lighting. The minimal set design was really affective in allowing us to focus our attention onto the actors which was essential given the concepts being discussed.
The interactions in each act between all three actors were very high quality. Michael Robins as the Dad had some memorable dialogue in the final scene but it was Michael Argus as Tommy and Stephanie Panozzo who stole the show.
Argus was amazing as a tortured soul seeking answers without much clue on how to find them while Panozzo lit up the stage for me; I could have watched her for hours. Their accents were flawless and the connection to each other was clear - sweeping me up into their world effortlessly.
It is a journey worth taking - go for the acting, go for the writing, but make sure you go.
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