THEATER REVIEW : Strong Performances Are the Stuff of ‘Dreamer’ : The one-act play by John Patrick Shanley examines relationships within a family.
John Patrick Shanley, author of the romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” is the creator of “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow,” a one-act play in brief run at the Plaza Players Theatre in Ventura.
It’s Doreen Lacy’s senior directing project for UC Santa Barbara and--more important to the audience--an opportunity to see some impressive acting in a relatively unexposed vehicle.
Like “Moonstruck,” “The Dreamer . . .” examines relationships within a family; this group is presumably also Italian American, although the actors’ accents wander all over the place.
On the outs with her ne’er-do-well boyfriend, Tommy, Donna comes to her father for advice. Deep family secrets are revealed, and everybody comes out newly enlightened.
The play’s dynamic shifts strongly from one scene to the next, with the focus predominantly on Donna and her father. She’s in her early 20s, maybe a bit smarter than she sounds with her Cindy Lauper accent (a comparison of unstable Tommy to “an isotope” comes in from nowhere; either she paid attention during physics class or Shanley is a careless writer).
He, a former painter, is Wise but Troubled. In the movies, Dad would have been played by Vincent Gardenia. Both characters are particularly well played by Sarah Meaney and John Medeiros, respectively.
Joe Orrego does what he can with the play’s most difficult role: Not only is Tommy a cad (dating Donna’s 16-year-old sister while on the rebound from Donna), he’s a thief (stealing from his mother to pay the rent) and of rather limited ambition--popping beers and staring at his refrigerator as if it were a TV set.
Making this guy appealing, even to Donna, is a task that would defy far more experienced actors; Orrego nearly succeeds, although his style of acting is noticeably less realistic than Meaney’s or Medeiros’.
Willy Eck has come up with an interesting and effective lighting design, and Meaney’s (uncredited) costume is suitably tacky.
As for Lacy’s work as a director, her choice of material is interesting, her grasp of the mechanics of the process is sound. A little more work on consistency might have been in order, but she’s certainly worth trusting with a two-act play.
* WHAT: “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow.”
* WHEN: Saturday and Aug. 13 at 2 p.m.; Monday at 8 p.m.
* WHERE: Plaza Players Theatre, 34 N. Palm Street (in the Livery Arts Center), Ventura.
* HOW MUCH: $5 general admission.
* FYI: Includes strong language. For reservations or further information, call 643-9460.