The bed occupies a unique place in life. It's a portal between the sleeping and waking worlds. Between dreams and reality. And it's this cosmic purgatory where Kelsey Ervi explores the depths of human emotion and how this distinctive setting affects us.
Waking Up, from the Greyman Theatre Company, is about just that. Through a series of vignettes, Ervi plumbs the multitude of situations, good and bad, that accompany waking up in bed. A simple concept sure enough, but Ervi uses it effectively, for the most part.
The ensemble features Joshua Gonzalez, Nellsyn Hill, Francisco Lopez, Jr. and Kelly Nickell, who each play several parts. They are the production's strongest point. Without a competent cast, this concept could have come dangerously close to being a boring mess of incongruity.
The vignettes themselves are sometimes random and sometimes interconnected. There is no rhyme or reason in their overall order or organization, embracing the randomness as an added nod to the unpredictability of waking feelings, but ultimately leaving some plot threads unresolved. The reasoning of why some stories get a through-line and multiple scenes versus others only getting one is unclear.
The physical setting, as might be expected, is simply a bed. To vary the staging, the actors will move the pillows around the four sides of the near perfectly square bed. It's a savvy decision by director Emily Christine Smith as it prevents the action from getting stale.
But the strength of this show is in its cast. Whether it's Gonzalez and Hill playing a young married couple still very much in love, Gonzalez and Lopez playing a couple on the tail end of a relationship, or Nickell sneaking out on Gonzalez after a one night stand, each of the actors brings a distinctive approach to each of the two or three characters they play. Happy or sad, gay or straight, young or old, Smith mines strong performances from her young cast.
Ervi has cast an inquisitive eye on an oft-overlooked yet singularly interesting time in people's lives. With this cast, it's worth opening your eyes for.
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