First of all, it’s great to see the Open Fist in production once again at the Atwater Village Theatre. It has been a long hiatus since reviewing “Rorschach Fest—Inkblot A: Ghosts” back on March 7, 2020. This bold, venerable company always comes up with unique shows. This time out it’s an hour long one-acter by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, entitled The Soldier Dreams.
Walking into the theatre and taking our seats, one could see a minimal set; two platforms left and right and a bed with a body center and positioned away from the audience toward upstage, and chairs positioned next to the bed. Carmella Jenkins, dressed in hospital scrubs, gives the usual curtain speech, then turns upstage to sit next to a patient as a family enters.
A handsome, articulate guy named David (David Shofner) adresses the audience and introduces the family members. The body in the bed is David (Ethan Niven), who is close to death. His disease is never mentioned. The family members are all different kinds of brittle due to the situation; they are Tish (Amy Moorman), an older sister, talkative and domineering; her husband, mild mannered Sam (Casey Sullivan); younger sister Judy (Stephanie Crothers), a pot head; and Richard (Conor Lane), David’s open relationship partner, who is not handling the situation of imminent death very well at all. Each character has their moment on a platform to tell their stories to the audience.
How can there be two David’s, one sleek and articulate talking to the audience and the other in a coma? Is he a ghost? No, the man in the bed is not dead yet. Perhaps he is an out-of-body fever dream. In what has to be flash back, sleek David meets a charming German immigrant (Schuyler Mastain) on the street, who is studying to be a doctor. They strike up a relationship. He is mysterious, somewhat confounding, and is the source of the play’s title.
Director Amanda Weier does well in bringing this tricky play to life. The cast is excellent, each shining in their own particular way. I developed a fondness for Sam (Casey Sullivan) and his kind ways, his long suffering relationships, and fumbling ability to use American Sign Language.
The creative staff consists of composer Stephen Ridley, scenic designer Jan Munroe, lighting designer Matt Richter, sound designer Mia Glenn-Schuster and costume designer Mylette Nora. Jennifer Palumbo manages the stage with smooth aplomb.
The Soldier Dreams runs at Atwater Village Theatre through December 12 on Saturdays at 8:30pm (dark on November 27; Sundays at 7:00pm; and Mondays at 8:15pm.