Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook
So you want to be a playwright. Great. From painful personal experience, let me offer one suggestion: limit your characters. I know you will be tempted by the prospect of adding a zany waiter with a secret past or a crazy aunt with who steals the scene at dinner, but don’t. Playwriting is hard. Making a fully dimensional character is hard. Keeping the audience’s attention is much harder than you think, and there is no worse sinking feeling than watching your friends make excuses halfway through your stage-reading, believe me.
Joey C. Pelletier’s vampire-thriller script for Your Wildest Dreams, staged by Heart & Dagger Productions, is nothing if not ambitious. It boasts a cast of twelve, if you count the Dream Vixens. Aside from the usual neck-biting, there are layers upon layers of other secrets, from a ninja who poses as a yoga teacher to a club kid who may or may not be sleeping with his sister’s deadbeat husband. Amnesia. Suicide. Dreams within dreams. It’s a kitchen sink approach that is difficult to pull off, especially since the story is often told with jump cuts and flashbacks. Director Danielle Leeber Lucas takes it one step further, by introducing new characters with interpretive dance pieces and nightmarish voice-overs. She’s also not afraid of the stark sexuality of the piece. They both should feel good about their bravery to take on such an ambitious piece.
It’s just too much. This script might be better suited for a multi-million dollar film which can afford the multiple sets, effects and camera angles needed to keep the audience engaged. We need time to digest all this information, and the stage is just too immediate of a forum to fully integrate us into Pelletier’s nightmare world.
Mystery is fine, but as a theatergoer I feel safe in saying that we, as a lot, are lazy. We get enough mystery when we do our tax returns each year; if we get mystery in theater, it’s got to be worth our while. Playwrights either need to leave a sufficient trail of breadcrumbs and red herrings to let us feel smart enough to solve things or populate this mystery world with characters we invest in from the start. With the ensemble cast and the confusing action, Your Wildest Dreams can encourage some theatergoers to tune out.
That’s a shame, because there are a lot of really good things going on here. Many of the actors fully embrace the ambitious script, the sexual tension builds well, and some of the performances achieve an off-handed campiness that is fun to watch. Pelletier demonstrates fine creativity here, and it will be fun to see what he can achieve with a bit more focus in future projects.