Bleak and beautiful, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow explores the illogical complexities of love, making a condemning conclusion about the inevitability of love’s end and the futility of romance. John Patrick Shanley’s difficult but enthralling play is presented with nuance.
[pullquote]The Dreamer Examines His Pillow is a powerful, melancholy script presented by a strong cast. Plays like this that make you appreciate the vibrancy and creativity of our independent theatre community.[/pullquote]Staged in three scenes, or three conversations, the play opens with Donna (Gina Leon) visiting her lover Tommy (Michael Germant), a half-hearted artist who’s currently seducing Donna’s 16 year-old sister. In his ramshackle apartment, a poorly drawn self-portrait stuck with nails glares over the empty beer cans, litter and torn-up couch. Tommy is precious and self-pitying, and his supposed self-examination distances himself from everyone, including the audience. Germant’s languid movements and quiet monotone reflect an internal emptiness the character is trying to fill. It’s a very strong performance.
Despite Tommy’s terrible behavior – sleeping with her sister and, we discover, robbing his own mother – Donna still loves Tommy. She wants him, she adores him, but she can’t be with him again. The duo discusses their predicament until Donna leaves to see her father about this mess.
Artfully played by Roman Podhora, Donna’s father is a gruff retired artist whose thick skin and callous disregard for his children soon belie a wounded soul. He consistently cheated on Donna’s mother, but did so because he loved her so much. He loved her so much he didn’t once visit her in the hospital as she slowly died. What’s remarkable is that despite these laughable claims, Porhora makes us believe them. We see the confusion and pain of someone who uses blunt force to hide his own anguish.
With such unhealthy male figures in her life, it’s a wonder Donna is as well-adjusted as she is. Leon balances Donna’s frailty of a woman in love with the quick-wit and harsh truths she presents to her motley family.
The conclusion is – inevitably – a completion of the circle, when Donna’s father sees Tommy. The resulting conversation is devastating to watch. History repeats itself, it seems. One cannot run from their true nature. Shanley presents us with truths of relationships we rarely want to acknowledge.
It’s a powerful, melancholy script presented by a strong cast. Plays like this that make you appreciate the vibrancy and creativity of our independent theatre community.
The Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley. Directed by Mel Austin-Tuck. An Island Productions presentation. On stage at the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St) through September 28. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets or visit http://dreamervancouver.com for more information.