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Theater for the New City Presents Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep 3/31-4/24


Theater for the New City presents "Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep," written and directed by Raymond J. Barry.

Three-character play is a provocative tale of love, politics and economic hitmen in a world of endless war.

March 31 to April 24, 2011
Theater for the New City (Johnson Theater), 155 First Ave. (at East Tenth Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 3:00 PM
$10 general admission. Box office (212) 254-1109,
Runs 1:15. Critics are invited on or after April 2.

Raymond J. Barry, a veteran actor, playwright and founding member of New York's legendary Open Theater and The Living Theater, will perform in and direct the world premiere of his three-character play, "Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep," a provocative tale of love, politics and economic hitmen in a world of endless war. Theater for the New City (TNC), 155 First Avenue, will present the work March 31 to April 24 in its Johnson Theater.

Barry has been acting and writing in Los Angeles since 1985. TNC has been his New York theatrical home, presenting his plays "Back When-Back Then" in 1997 and "Foul Shots" in 2004. "Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep" is a statement of the dark political shadows that hang over us. It takes characters who could have stepped out of "Confessions Of An Economic Hitman" by John Perkins and places them in the throes of a love triangle in which two men compete for a woman in the veiled language and secretive reality of the corrupt world of predatory lending to developing countries.

The play starts out as a conflict between Paul and Erica, whose son has been killed in an unnamed war. Paul had dodged the draft during Vietnam by claiming to be homosexual, but has apparently bragged to their son that he was a war hero. He is the boss of a consulting company, called the "Group," that convinces the leaderships of underdeveloped countries to accept predatory development loans. He is a figure of both power and impotence. His wife, Erica, is aware of his secret and enraged that he would persuade their son to go to war. While they argue over their son's death, Paul leaves the stage.

Enter Edward, who works for Paul but is now quitting his highly sensitive position. The two men have been engaged in stealth operations together and there is enormous tension between them. Erica is strongly drawn to Edward. As the two men contend for her favor, the play conveys the eerie feeling that things are way out of our control. Political issues and fear of the authorities are raised amid attraction, loneliness and neediness in all three characters.

The play evokes the doubt and suspicion that was born in the Iran Contra affair and continues to the present, with its fracturing of trust and its feeling of overwhelming helplessness as our nation projects its power worldwide. A small coterie runs covert operations but the assumption is that they represent all of us. Edward is aware of this; Paul is not and Erica is becoming aware through Edward's influence.

When the actors occasionally glance outward as if toward loud noises, we imagine there is a war going on within their hearing distance, as if they hear our nation's dropping bombs in far away countries while they perch on park benches and read Tolstoy. Their tragic situation is dealt with in an almost humorous fashion. The play is stylized in its movement and orchestrated in its overlapping dialogues. Barry's writing method makes generous use of Viola Spolin techniques, which The Open Theater incorporated into its work and influenced him in terms of how people talk "through each other." There is no polite waiting for the other person to finish, but an impatience. This changes the sound of the play, giving it a non-sequitur logic that stays ahead of the audience and keeps the action unpredictable. Barry says his plays have been regarded as Albee-esque in flavor, but says that is a curious by-product.

The production was workshopped (without reviews) in Los Angeles at the Electric Lodge, January 14 to February 6, 2011 using two park benches and one thick tree trunk that seemed to grow out of the floor, all on a black stage. The two male characters were dressed in formal, dark suits. The woman wore a red, conservative-looking dress. The lights were constant for the duration of the play with no adjustments. Now the play will have its world premiere in a full production in TNC's large Johnson Theater. The actors will be the LA cast: Tacey Adams, Raymond J. Barry and Joseph Culp. Production design is by Markus Maurette.

The play's inspiration, "Confessions Of An Economic Hitman," is a 2004 book written by John Perkins, in which he describes working for a group called "Maine" that coordinates hand in hand with the CIA, lending huge sums of money to undeveloped countries to build infrastructure in return for favors. The book also describes the dark world of assassinations and political manipulation by the CIA. Barry had been reading the book when a friend, John Goodman, suggested that he try to write a play about an issue that he cared about. The issue became "the darkness, the shadow hanging over us since the Iran Contra Affair and continuing into the present Middle Eastern wars."

Raymond J. Barry's career has spanned fifty years, dating back to 1963 with Judith and Julian Beck's Living Theater's production of "The Brig," followed by an eight year stint with Joseph Chaikin's famed Open Theater that toured yearly from New York City to Algeria, Israel, Iran, Paris, Berlin, London and Copenhagen. In the early seventies he founded and directed Quena Company, featuring Jean Reynolds and David DePorte as lead performers, and, at the same time, conducted workshops in Sing-Sing Penitentiary, Attica, and Grasslands County Jail. This work led to a company of ex-offenders known for funding purposes as "Street Theatre."

Raymond J. Barry (Edward) has performed in some sixty productions in New York City, including the original production of Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. He has also appeared in seventy films over a five decade period, including the role of Tom Cruise's father in "Born On the Fourth Of July" and the role of the bereaved father in Tim Robbin's "Dead Man Walking." He has played leading roles in "Interview With the Assassin" and "Charlie Valentine,""Walk Hard," "Falling Down," "The Ref," "Year Of The Dragon," "K2," "Flubber" and dozens more. For the past two years he has played Tim Olaphant's father, Arlo, in FX's TV series, "Justified." In 2010 Mr. Barry was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Gasparrila Film Festival; the Stanley Kramer Legend Award For Excellence in Film by the Pasadena "Action On Film" Festival; Best lead Performance at Philadelphia's First Glance Film Festival; and New York Film Festival's Best Lead Performance for his work in "Interview With The Assassin," in which he played the alleged second gunman who shot President Kennedy. He was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his work in the film, "Steel City," and has been awarded a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, three Dramalogue Awards and a Maddie Award for his play, "Once In Doubt" (1990) that originated at La MaMa in 1988. His anthology of eight plays, "Mother's Son and Other Plays," can be ordered from Prior to his self-imposed "exile" to L.A., Barry's TNC resume included directing and co-writing "Blue Heaven" and "Technocracy." He appeared in "Nine to Five," a collaborative piece, and "Molly's Dream" by Maria Irene Fornes. Since 1998, he has returned periodically to TNC. He acted in his play, "Back When Back Then," a play on domestic violence, in 1988 and in 2005, appeared with Robert Culp in his play, "Foul Shots," in which a British-educated son teaches his illiterate American father how to read. Barry writes, "I am grateful to the Theatre For The New City for their constant openness to innovative work, constant availability to artists in the community and their profound understanding of what is necessary for a creative community to survive."

Joseph Culp (Paul) is the son of Robert Culp ("I Spy") and has been working in theater, film and TV since 1981. He has played leading roles in Alan J. Pakula's "Dream Lover," "The Arrival" and "The Fantastic Four (as Doctor Doom)"; also in Monte Hellman's "Iguana," Maria Novaro's "El Jardin del Eden," Hallmark's "Wild Hearts" and the comedy sci-fi "Cyxork VII." He was featured in HBO's "Full Eclipse" and Mario Van Peebles' "Panther and Badasssss." His TV credits include "ER," "Deep Space Nine" and "House" and he plays Archie Whitman, a recurring role in "Mad Men." His theater credits include "Children of Darkness" at The Actor's Studio, "A Step Out of Line" at HB Playwrights and "Foul Shots" by Raymond J. Barry at Theater for the New City. He has founded two theater companies in LA. He won a Los Angeles Dramalogue award for his lead performance in Jason Miller's "Nobody Hears a Broken Drum."

Tacey Adams (Erica) has played a recurring role in TV's "Las Vegas" and principal roles in "Passions" and "What Should You Do?" She appears regularly in productions of "Shear Madness" around the country. She has also appeared in various productions at regional theaters. In films, she played the lead in "Better Housekeeping," which won an award at Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance and was a supporting lead in "Maid of Honor," which won an award at Sundance.

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