An actor, Nick (Matt Calvert) goes into rehearsal for William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to reprise his role as Bottom. Bottom is the (both literally and figuratively) donkey-headed character from Midsummer’s troupe of actors known as the mechanicals, and one of the many characters that plays on both sides of the fourth wall.
For Nick, and for this rehearsal process, the role is now laden with memories of his previous performance, where he met and lost a romantic love interest.
Dreamer/Seeker, written by Devan Andrews, has the energy of a play inspired in a cloud of grief, and written throughout the period of recovery. Andrews describes it as a “time capsule depicting his mental state at the time,” and that finishing the play served as a process for emotional closure and recovery.
Dreamer/Seeker is set in multiple worlds for Nick: his rehearsal space, his memories, and in a dream state that makes up most of the second half of the play. These environments combine, similar to Bottom’s story in Midsummer, into a story where Nick must engage with the fading memories of his girlfriend and live with the loss.
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Calvert’s performance is steady, and effectively nuanced in his quiet grief. The actors playing the mechanicals, during a second half reminiscent of Pixar’s Inside Out, bring light and humor to an otherwise grim story. The characters, delightfully performed by Gabriela Schulman, Adrianne Knapp, Nik Henle, and Ruth Elizabeth Diaz, are fully immersed in the play world (worlds?) they’ve created. So much so, the reviewed performance was missing one of the lead actors. The director noted this dramatic change at the end of the performance, a revelation that elicited no less than a few gasps from the audience.
Dreamer/Seeker closes July 27, 2019 at Capital Fringe 2019. Details and tickets
The actors were, nonetheless, so in tune with the energy of the play, that there was a sense of improvised magical realism necessary to fill the space of the missing actor: a mechanical would hold a flower in place of the missing actor, or a voice-over would speak and present as if a fading memory.
Peter Mikhail and Talia Segal round out the cast as a “Director” and the Juilliard-trained production assistant, respectively. Pete Sheldon, as the music director, literally directs the soundtrack of the play through the strum of an acoustic guitar played live. This ensemble troupe delight the audience with a sharp humor and energetic delivery.
Devan Andrews’ script takes care not to dwell in the melodramatic. There is a self-awareness throughout the entire show that reflects Midsummer Night’s tone. Characters express gratitude within their own show for skipping on the “boring” parts of Midsummer. They struggle to find their place in the play during the summarized version that takes place in Nick’s mind. The writing shines in these moments.
Director/Producer Rocky Nunzio has told DCTS who much he believes in this story. The gentle direction, and his ability to balance the magic, the lightness and the weight of the play is indicative of that devotion to this work.
This is a play with layers, and the fairly on-the-nose parallels to Midsummer and the personal story work very well. Dreamer / Seeker is a story that wants us to meditate on memory, on what we do when we lose someone close to us. Similar to Midsummer’s ending, the play ends recognizing that the performance may fade from memory, but what is left is a personal story told in earnest introspection and insight.
Dreamer / Seeker. Written by Devan Andrews. Directed by Rocky Nunzio. Music by Pete Sheldon. Lighting by Elliott Shugoll. Costumes by Keira DiGaetano. Stage Manager Deborah Gur. With Matt Calvert, Jessi Scott, Peter Mikhail, Talia Segal, Adrianne Knapp, Nik Henle, Ruth Elizabeth Diaz, and Gabriela Schulman. Presented at Capital Fringe 2019. Reviewed by Julian Oquendo.
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