BWW Reviews: THE DREAMER EXAMINES HIS PILLOW, Old Red Lion Theatre, January 24 2013
Donna (Stacie Bono) isn't happy at all with her ex, Tommy (Kieran Moloney) who's been seeing her sixteen-year-old sister. Yet she can't quite shake the slob - it's the sex, you see - and she's fretting about turning into her mother, who was trapped in a bad marriage with her father (Jason Will). So she talks to her father and he goes round to Tommy's dingy flat to talk man-to-man with him and, maybe, to beat him up. But, after a lot of angst, a lot of shouting and a lot of moralising (and some distinctly unenlightened riffs on sexual politics), things turn out okay in the end.
If you're thinking that this menage-a-trois has something of the Jerry Springer Show about it, you're not the only one - there's even a speech or two that could be used word for word in one of Jerry's closing thoughts. But John Patrick Shanley's script is not written in the argot of America's Trailer Trash "Nuts n' Sluts" paraded like Victorian Freaks for daytime TV fodder. His Tommy, Donna and Dad speak a kind of urban poetry, informed by the self-help books, popular science and cod psychoanalysis that did the rounds back in the mid-80s. Such discourse may look good on the page, but on stage, it compels characters to make speeches, rather than speak - it's impossible to imagine these three holding a conversation about the weather, or anything really, other than the pain of relationships.
Stacie Bono's Donna reminded me of near namesake Madonna, around the time of Papa Don't Preach (a song that covers very similar subject matter), Kieran Moloney's Tommy is a dead ringer for Colin Farrell at his most moody, while Jason Will brings something of mid-career Oliver Reed's blend of slumming-it sophistication to his role. But the actors aren't called upon to do much beyond "Angry", "Pissed Off" and "Vulnerable", though Jason Will does have to do "Condescending" too. John Patrick Shanley's mantelpiece may groan with the weight of awards, but The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (by Lightning Jar at The Old Red Lion until 16 February) is too one-dimensional to extend the actors' talents - or the audience's interest.