Theatre of Dreams

Jan Hus Playhouse
351 E. 74th St.
Non-union production
Fri & Sat, open-ended run
Review by Maya T. Amis

A group that enacts real dreams described by members of the audience does not sound all that promising, but Theatre of Dreams is mesmerizing. Host Bob Paton, who has an ageless, approachable dignity, makes volunteers comfortable, asks questions to draw them out, and then restates their dreams. The cast then acts out the dream, using fabric remnants of different sizes as costumes, props, sets and even wigs. Michael Shenker, the musical director, improvises with the help of Gary Buhler on percussion, while the lighting acts as a special effect (courtesy of Johnson Anthony). The players are uniformly excellent; the cast of (about) nine can play anything from a cat to a mythic heroine to a stereo speaker. When necessary, they even bring in extras from the audience and elicit flawless performances from them, too.

The ensemble's treatment of the dreams was convincing, appropriately surreal, and above all, respectful. Paton stressed that they were not there to analyze the dreams but to bring them to physical reality. They deliberately left the interpretation to the audience and, ultimately, to the dreamer. The dreams themselves varied from mundane to exceptional. Paton divided them into two categories: those that portrayed everyday life, with perhaps a few surreal details, and what Indians call "big dreams," which are particularly vivid and unusual, with a profound effect on the dreamer. He tried to elicit both from the audience, with, presumably, variable success. Although this show is entirely spontaneous, the cast, as directed by Bob Paton, interpreted the dreams so smoothly and accurately as to appear thoroughly rehearsed. Using techniques of mime and dance as well as theatre, they were excellent at portraying the unportrayable: those awkward transitions and impossible events that are the hallmarks of dreams.

At the end of the evening, after perhaps four or five dreams, the host and the entire audience put together a new myth from images in that night's dreams. After Paton retold it, the ensemble acted it out. This last endeavor tied seemingly disparate threads together and by doing so united everyone, the ensemble and the audience, in a unique creation.

Also featuring Ron Yearwood, Shannon Malone, L. Cyré Rodriguez, Lois Kagan Mingus, Jonathan Sandler, Rock Townsend, Frank Spencer, Gary Muellner, Luciana Leuzzi, Peter J. Vecrumba, Donna Ray; scenic designer, Debra Roth

Box Score:
Interpretation 2
Directing 2
Improvisation/Acting 2
Set 1
Lights 2
Music 2
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis

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