If you’re a sleep-walker and have woken up in the middle of the night and gone on a date with a crush as your alter-ego, then Ambien Date Night by Jessica Erin Bylander will be sure to bring back some fond memories. If not, go find yourself some Ambien and see for yourself. Or don’t. Actually it’s best if you don’t since Ambien can make for some very strange evenings.
Side-effects aside, Ambien Date Night is the laughable and outlandish farce following Connie (Katie Maconaughey) as she discovers what she’s been up to every night since taking Ambien. Connie is a stress-addled workaholic do-good that has been having trouble sleeping. Her best-friend at work, Marianne (Amanda Haddock Duchemin) recommends Ambien to help her with her sleepless nights. Initially a godsend for Connie, the Ambien has turned her life around. But she soon discovers, that while under the influence, she’s been sleep-walking as C.J her alter-ego, a rapacious sex-vixen completely unlike Connie. The tale that ensues is the cat-fight between Connie and C.J over the love of their lives, the funnel-cake boy, Ty (Bryan Norrington.)
Ambien Date Night is like a meta version of The Hangover. It’s self-deprecating and riddled with some great one-liners and has some dark implications to consider like: if you have sex with someone as your alter-ego while under Ambien, is it rape? Despite this, it suffers from having some strange scenes that last only two or three lines that leave you baffled as to why they were put there in the first place.
Ambien Date Night
by Jessica Erin Bylander
Directed by Strother Gaines
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One of the highlights of this play is the multi-functional upright bed that spins around. Seeing characters sleep in an upright bed is jarring but used to great effect. In one particular scene entitled “Connie’s boring-ass montage” Connie practically dances with her bed. Ethan Balis’ original music composition is surprisingly profound. It conjures up images of wakefulness bubbling up through the surface of sleep but never breaking through. Cara Johnston’s costume design speaks for itself and includes some delightful surprises as we journey further and further into an Ambien dream.
Maconaughey and Duchemin fill the evening with laughs with their sharp comedic sensibilities and chemistry. Maconaughey, is brilliant in the way she slips between the shy and frumpy Connie to the wolfish and insatiable C.J. In between Connie and C.J is Marianne, the boisterous and independent friend who relishes in Connie’s plight. Derek Hills and Bryan Norrington have their moments but mostly play it safe.
At times Duchemin interacts with the audience by feeding them (candy) Ambien and pie, making for some unforgettable moments.
Sadly, Ambien Date Night is choked by some stifling direction. It was clumsy and completely sapped of energy by its endless scene changes that sometimes lasted longer than the scenes themselves. The play is 70 minutes long, but Gaines manages to drag it out by about 10. The whole play felt sleepy and in need of a serious jolt of caffeine to let its more farcical sensibilities shine.