Faith and reason, spirit and matter, head and heart — all are aspects of a division so constant throughout history that it seems to be genetically hard-wired. Exploring this inherently conflicted human nature is the focus of "Dream Catcher," Stephen Sachs' new drama at the Fountain Theatre.
Sachs' two-hander frames these conflicts in intimate terms that grow increasingly heated. Stark, sweltering Mojave Desert terrain (strikingly realized in Jeffrey McLaughlin's immersive scenic design) provides the backdrop for a lovers' rendezvous between solar power field engineer Roy (Brian Tichnell) and edgy tattooed Native American Opal (Elizabeth Frances).
Within minutes of meeting, they're going at each other hot and heavy. The phrase "opposites attract" never rang truer than with these two. What connects them, beyond the palpable physical attraction evoked by the performers, is a shared sense of displacement and alienation — Roy from his sheltered East Coast suburbs, Opal from her Native American heritage.
There's more to their meeting than a tryst, however. Following the guidance of a mystical dream, Opal has discovered the remains of a sacred ancestral burial ground on the desolate site that Roy's company has earmarked for a game-changing renewable energy generator.
Before you can say "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act," the lovers are locked in a clash as heated as their passion. Crusading Opal is determined to notify the authorities of her find, while coldly rational Roy argues that the resulting delay, red tape and costs would scuttle the project, with potentially grave consequences for climate change and our very survival.
Curbing the performers' artificially accelerated line delivery out of the gate could set a more naturalistic conversational tone and give the pacing room to ramp up as the stakes get higher, but in all other respects, Cameron Watson's visceral, hot-blooded staging makes the most of the characters' dispute. Though Roy has the stronger factual argument, playwright Sachs balances the scales — perhaps a little too neatly — by undermining Roy's stance of moral superiority.
Make no mistake: Sexual tension notwithstanding, "Dream Catcher" is fundamentally a philosophical debate ripped from our historical faith-reason schism — one that seems to devolve, with depressing consistency, into manipulation, intimidation and violence.
Where: Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 21.
Tickets: $15-$34.95 (Mondays, pay what you can)
Info: (323) 663-1525 or www.fountaintheatre.com
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes