Woolly Mammoth's Fever/Dream

Playwright Sheila Callaghan (whose previous work has been seen here in DC at Catalyst Theatre) gives us a quirky world, where things are slightly off-kilter, in her play Fever/Dream, a reimagining of Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s 16th century classic Life is a Dream. Oh, but don’t panic. You need not be familiar with the work of the Spanish Golden Age to enjoy this play. Life is a Dream, in fact, remains on my personal list of Plays I am Ashamed to Have Never Read Nor Seen and I Better Change That Fact Quick if I Want to Continue to Claim to be a Connoisseur of Theatre. Sure you, like I, will miss out on the clever things Callaghan is doing with the original tale, but you’ll still get the point.

Callaghan has set this play, not in a Spanish kingdom, but in a big city corporate office. Bill Basil, mogul and millionaire, is aging. His deteriorating health forces him to examine his life and make some shocking decisions. He decides to promote his son to President of the company. His son, Segis Basil (a likable and energetic Daniel Eichner), has heretofore been stuck in the basement of the company, chained to a desk, spaghetti dropped down from the sky at determined parts of the day, visited only by Fred Clotaldon the office manager (a nicely understated Michael Willis), and two security guards. Segis is literally stuck in the worst of all jobs … CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Segis is instantly promoted, and having no knowledge or experience, he immediately creates havoc, running against the plans of the rest of company management, steely Stella Strong (Kate Eastwood Norris) and smooth Aston Marton (KenYatta Rogers). Add to this mess two young women who have infiltrated the company for reasons yet unknown – Rose (Kimberly Gilbert) and her eager-to-please roommate Claire (an expert comic performance by Jessica Frances Dukes), and you have the makings of a zany comedy. It all works out in the end, much to the audience’s entertainment.

Callaghan’s script is successful most in the way it embraces its own brand of silliness, and the production and actors fully support that atmosphere. One of the aspects that contributes most to this atmosphere is the chorus of robotic accountants and apathetic vlogers, played by students from the University of Maryland (Andrew Blau, Lauren Ciandella, Michael Davis, Alice Gibson, Mark Halpern, Shannon Listol, Amanda Miller, Katie Rooney, Mark Sparacino, Anastasia Stewart, and Scott Whalen). Not only do they each perform their bit parts with great timing and the right intensity of character, but their unified choral movement is also excellent, and helps create the feeling of office hubbub and corporate buzzing. Despite the fact that these actors are every bit a part of the production as the company members and Helen Hayes award winners, they don’t get bios in the program, making it seem like Woolly doesn’t consider them “real” actors. I’m sure program space can be claimed as a reasoning, but I still find it an unfortunate omission, given their fine work.

3 stars
Through June 28th


Unknown said…
Just read this - they can't have bios because of equity arrangements. Gotta love unions sometimes.
Ah. I imagine that also explains why New Jersey Shakes separates their equity cast from their non equity cast in their programs. Good to know.

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