Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wild, but broken, Dreams

Denise Drago makes her move on Will Schuller in Your Wildest Dreams
Last weekend I checked out one of the final performances of my buddy Joey Pelletier's play Your Wildest Dreams, produced by Heart & Dagger Productions at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre.

Joey is a kind of playwriting dynamo - Heart & Dagger just put up another one of his scripts only a few weeks ago - and he has an endearingly gonzo attitude when it comes to his craft.  Indeed, he tosses off plays as if they were songs: Joey goes for it, gets it up there, and only then scans the fourth wall to see what (if anything) has stuck.

And not only is speed everything for Joey and Heart & Dagger, but experimentation is also a necessity.  So a typical Pelletier play is studded with choreography and stage pictures - devised by frequent collaborator Danielle Leeber Lucas - that sometimes patch holes in the plot, sometimes extend the action in a mode that's vaguely cinematic, or sometimes simply attempt to "get abstract."  Now this kind of thing can often be irritating, but it never is at Heart & Dagger somehow, because the troupe is never pretentious; nevertheless, their shows can be - well, a bit confusing.

And Your Wildest Dreams, in fact, was like a short course in the company's strengths and gaps.  The concept of the show was intriguing, and conceptually ambitious: Dreams was composed entirely of dreams, as experienced by eight different characters, most of whom seemed linked in a complicated set of relationships in the waking world, but who in their wildest dreams operated in very different, at times even fantastical, roles.

But perhaps the production's ambitions were almost too wild.  The key to conveying dream logic as dramatic action is to build in framing that explains the rules of said dreams (hence all that explicit exposition in Inception, which despite its confounding contradictions, operated by a simple set of conventions).  But Joey never clearly does this, so we're on our own throughout his various episodes, which he tries to structure as a web of interconnected fantasies and a functioning "queer vampire thriller," to boot.  This is rather a tall order - especially given the fact that the script juggles eight major characters, all of whom are sometimes seemingly their "real" selves, and sometimes their "fantasy" selves (i.e., as they might figure in someone else's dreams).

Oh, well.  I have to admit that half the time I was slightly lost, but the show was still punchy fun, off and on, and Lucas's choreography seemed better integrated into the storyline (and more clearly interpretible) than usual.  Slinky Denise Drago had the most impact as a seductive vampire (above), but Jenny Reagan, Amy Meyer and Kendall Aiguier also made positive impressions (in general the women seemed to fare better here than the men).  Sets and lighting were minimal, but at least the sound track was solid - Joey's got good taste in club music, and many episodes were at their best when channeling (however vaguely) the menace that floats just beneath the come-on of so many club tracks.  In the end, Your Wildest Dreams felt like a promising first draft - although it will take real discipline (and time and focus) to make it the stuff that dreams are made on.

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