Writer: Christopher B. Latro
Director: Anna Bamberger
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
If humans have free will, and that free will is a gift from the gods, or God, can we still be manipulated into making certain decisions, and if we are, is that truly “free will?” While not the only theme in Devoted Dreams, these questions form the basis of this play’s explicit explorations. Greed, lust, complacency, ego and unfulfilled desires abound among the characters, whose lives are ostensibly turned upside down by the entrance of a small boy (whom we know to be the son of a Hera- and Zeus-like couple of gods that frames the play).
This is Christopher B. Latro’s and Anna Bamberger’s third collaboration, and while it’s a noticeable improvement upon the previous, it is still clearly the work of a new playwright and a new director, finding their footing in the medium of theatre. With a cast of six actors and ten characters, four actors are double cast in what appears to be a choice of the playwright. Drawing parallels between the gods and the humans, as well as among the humans themselves, the intention is clear and reasonable, but the execution is muddy. Perhaps a more seasoned director or a more able cast would have been able to bring the necessary clarity.
Onstage costume changes succeed and fail in even measure, and one scene is hampered by the double casting of Sarah Swift as both wife and mistress of Alexander—played by Brandon Alan Smith—because while he’s afraid of being caught if his wife walks in on them, we know it’s an impossibility. That alone is a reasonable suspension of disbelief, but in consideration with other flaws, it just becomes one more example of poor implementation of a script that has a lot of fat to cut, and yet thinks very highly of itself. Swift and Smith both do noteworthy work with a less-than-ideal script.
According to the official play description, Alexander is the main character.
A young man fighting to find love and success in a loveless world driven by money and power. Surrounded by overbearing parents, a friendly yet cold marriage and brutal bosses he can only find escape in endless work and the arms of a beautiful young woman. Can a child save him? Who is this child? Where is he from? Is there really a higher power set to bring happiness to these people?
In reality, Alexander is the last person we meet and he seems to be a subplot in his own story. Or else it’s that everyone else’s stories are important only in that they influence Alexander’s narrative. His mistress, Leslie, has all of her problems solved at the end with the help of money, sex, and men, but has no apparent motivations of her own, outside of that magical trio. Alexander’s wife remains wilfully blind to his deceptions, and forgives him everything without ever receiving a valid explanation.
Latro explores worthwhile topics and attempts to raise important questions. Unfortunately he provides us with answers that are trite and simplistic, through one-dimensional characters and a fairly misogynistic point of view. Clichés abound, and if you’re curious about whether or not the higher power can bring these characters happiness, the answer is a resounding yes, in a somehow not-remotely-ironic fashion.
Considering all of its weaknesses, including the fact that the title is incorrect in the program, one is hard-pressed to consider spending full price on a ticket, but if you can get in for half or less, it will be easier to see the pros over the cons.
Runs until 27th June 2015| Photo: Amy Foster