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Off Broadway

He Says: Wakey Wakey Put Me To Sleep

He Says: Wakey Wakey Put Me To Sleep

Wakey Wakey, Wil Eno, MICHAEL EMERSON

Will Eno is a much-honored playwright with an assortment of awards. He’s won an Obie Award, Lortel Award, the Oppenheimer Award, and a Drama Desk recognizing his plays, Thom Pain (based on nothing), The Flu SeasonThe Open House, and The Realistic Jones which I was lucky enough to see when it played on Broadway.  I had great hopes when I entered the Signature Theatre where he is a Residency Five playwright. I had a curiosity and an excitement about Wakey Wakey. Written and directed by Eno, I gave myself up to the unknown, and had no idea what to expect. But I can tell you this for a fact, I expected a lot more than what I was given.

Wakey Wakey, Wil Eno, MICHAEL EMERSON

It begins with a compelling pop. A quick flash that caused my heart to jump. It was a momentary visual of Michael Emerson (Moises Kaufman’s Gross Indecency at Minetta Lane Theatre) as Guy, flailing on the floor, followed by a blackout. That image was abruptly replaced by a more serine vision of Guy calmly sitting in a wheelchair chair. He is surrounded by cardboard boxes with a doorway and plants on either side further back (scenic design: Christine Jones; costume: Michael Krass; lighting: David Lander; sound: Nevin Steinberg; projection: Peter Migrini). It looks like an apartment, where someone is about to move out, or in the process of moving in. I’m not sure. But don’t ask me which, because the answer would be a guess.  A stab in the dark trying to place meaning on the banal.

Wakey Wakey, Wil Eno, MICHAEL EMERSON

Guy begins chatting with us, breaking the fourth wall immediately. I’m not sure if we are audience members at a play or some other formal or informal gathering in Eno’s mind, regardless the fantasy engagement is cute and humorous. There doesn’t seem any reason we are having this moment with Guy, it seems random and sort of pointless, or at least I was missing the point. To be honest, even though I patiently waited (many did not), hoping to get some insight as to why we are gathered here, it never came to me. I made guesses based pretty much solely on the original image, but there wasn’t a moment when we are given a flash of comprehension or understanding. I would guess that this is some sort of meditation on ‘death approaching’. Maybe a cautionary tale on waking ourselves up to the world of possibilities and enjoying the moments we are given. I don’t know.

Wakey Wakey, Wil Eno, MICHAEL EMERSON

Guy became more confused and more agitated as we go along, especially once a sweet caregiver of some sort (a sweet portrayal by January LaVoy) shows up to offer him a cold compress and some modern dance (once again, don’t ask me why). To me her arrival was a godsend, as I hoped she would help guide us to some understanding. But as the play crept forward through its very long 75 minutes, her presence only seemed to slow the process down and mess up what little focus there was to begin with.  I was still waiting for some explanation for the boxes, for the doorframe, and for the meandering one-sided dialogue.

So I’m going to take a step back right now, and try to look at this piece in the same way I felt I had to in order to understand Good Samaritans, the play by Richard Maxwell that I saw recently at Abrons Art Center. I had a difficult time with that production, as Maxwell likes to try to extract emotional line readings out of his performances in order to dig down to the more human truth.  He’s one of those artists that require us to read up on his intentions before trying to consume his work. Eno is similar although in, what I consider, a less performance art kind of approach.  His plays have an essence of structure, but without the logical pathways of thought.  He has said of his work, that one shouldn’t come to his plays expecting tidy resolutions, clearly drawn narrative arcs or familiar characters. And if that is his purpose here, he has succeeded.  He also wanted people to experience this play as a thing that happened, rather than a play that you went to.  And I get that, but I’m still not sure what actually happened.  I could throw out some ideas here, but if there is pleasure to be had from Wakey Wakey, it may be in the game of guessing what that was all about. For this theatre junkie, Wakey Wakey put me to sleep.

So for more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

 

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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