Vitalist Theatre in association with
Premiere Theatre and Performance presents
Calderon de la Barca’s
LIFE IS A DREAM
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
Adapted by Helen Edmundson
Directed by Liz Carlin-Metz
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru June 11th
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
‘We dream our lives until we wake.’ Visions, daydreams, nightmares, ending the reality or fantasy is not always as easy as opening or shutting an eye. Vitalist Theatre in association with Premiere Theatre and Performance presents the USA premiere of Calderon de la Barca’s LIFE IS A DREAM, a new version by Helen Edmundson. In 16th century Poland, the King contemplates his successor. Should it be his nephew or his son? His nephew is visiting from a foreign land. His son is imprisoned in a nearby tower. Because of a disturbing vision, the King has kept the Prince in chains and ignorance his entire life. Although he’s been educated by a loyal noblest, the Prince has no clue who he is or why he lives in captivity. The King wants to see if the Prince is fit to rule but doesn’t want to be *cruel*. So, he lets his son experience freedom under the influence. The Prince is observed for royal leadership qualities but he’s drugged. If he’s determined unfit, he will return to his cell. And his sovereignty day explained as a dream. Love, honor, and duty compete with sudden independence and entitlement. LIFE IS A DREAM wakes up to the real consequences of life choices.
Playwright Helen Edmundson adapted the Spanish classic. The main father and son story is intertwined with secondary tales of love and honor at court. Disguised identities wrap around the ongoing theme of pretend and real. Although Edmundson pens LIFE IS A DREAM as an enchanting fable, some of the flowery prose gets lost in the trance. Lengthy monologues are tedious for the actors to recite and the audience to follow. There is plenty of time to daydream. Under the direction of Liz Carlin-Metz, movement enthralls with intriguing sequences of riding horseback and battling enemies. Absent the action, the monologues tend toward the stagnant and the scene transitions seem to be on a five second delay.
Despite the abundant text, the cast pulls off some strong poignant connections. As the Prince, Paul Dunckel (Segismundo) majestically transforms from victim to persecutor to nobleman. Dunckel delivers his extensive verse with self-actualized wonderment. His epiphanies seem organic to the moment. A passionate Vanessa Greenway (Rosaura) is delightful as the high-spirited woman on a mission. Caught between love and protocol, Gregory Isaac (Astolfo) is dashing as the seducer of ladies. Isaac charms with romantic confusion. Ivan Vega (Clarion) is hilarious poking fun of his dishonorable ways. In exquisite costumes selected by Rachel Sypneiwski, the cast is regally adorned in magnificent finery. The rich colors and texture make for a dreamy visual.
‘Everyone who is living is dreaming.’ Being awake or asleep, the state of imagination lets us know anything is possible. Is it real or did I dream it? LIFE IS A DREAM is a fascinating contemplation of self-discovery. This production is a powerful wake-up call with some snooze button moments.