BWW Review: DREAMER/SEEKER at Capital Fringe
Dreamer/Seeker, written by Devan Andrews and directed by Rocky Nunzio, is one of this year's several Capital Fringe offerings that use one of Shakespeare's plays as inspiration. A longstanding tradition, there's a seemingly infinite number of ways to remix the canon; this show uses both a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and that play's ideas of dream logic as a jumping off point. It's an interesting concept: an actor named Nick, playing Bottom in Midsummer, is still struggling to adjust back to life after the tragic loss of his girlfriend, and it's messing with his ability to perform the role. We observe as he drifts between two realities - his memories of her, and his life without her.
Matt Calvert does a great job as Nick - one of the hardest things for an actor to do is to play another actor, and his performance is affable and affecting - you can see Calvert playing a great Bottom in an actual production of Midsummer. Jessi Scott is Janean, the object of Nick's memory, and Scott is very good in a tricky role. Though she exists in memory, Andrews' script and Scott's performance are layered enough to make her work as a human being, rather than exist just as some phantom memory for Nick to overcome. In particular, there's an extended scene where she has to wear a pretty goofy mask, and her performance is still graceful and touching. Peter Mikhail and Talia Segal have great comedic timing as the play's director and costume designer, and the actors playing Bottom's fellow rude mechanicals in this Midsummer - Ruth Elizabeth Diaz, Nik Henle, Adrienne Knapp, Gabriela Schulman and Pete Sheldon - do some nice ensemble work, especially during the second half when we shift away from Nick's dreams.
The trouble with the show starts to become apparent during the second half. At some point, Nick falls asleep and his castmates start to perform Midsummer around him. Why they have to do this is never made explicitly clear - as time goes on we understand it's to help him reach closure, but it's communicated in such an oblique way that it becomes very difficult to follow. There's also some troubling business behind the conceit of the show itself - Nick's disassociation is treated less as a real condition than plot device, and I question how much research went into manifesting this storyline. It's not insensitive, but more thought could have gone into Nick's condition and what effect it has on real patients.
Nunzio does a fine job directing the ensemble through the myriad transitions, and there is some excellent lighting work done by Elliott Shugoll, who makes great use of light popping through the dark backstage curtains. Pete Sheldon's music is a lovely touch, dreamlike and soothing. While the show on a whole has some issues defining itself, the team puts enough heart into it to make it worth your time. There is one more performance of Dreamer/Seeker at Capital Fringe.