First produced in the mid-1980s, John Patrick Shanley’s “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow,” now at the Lounge 2 Theatre, holds interest as an early work by a playwright still casting about for his artistic moorings.
Awash in desultory emotionalism, the play offers a plethora of actors’ moments for its three accomplished performers, who manage — almost — to connect the dots of Shanley’s rambling verbosity.
The action opens with Tommy (Ade M’Cormack) talking drunkenly to his refrigerator, an appliance that might have some mystical (or merely pretentious) connection to the plot.
Into Tommy’s squalid apartment storms his ex-girlfriend Donna (Scottie Thompson), who is furious because Tommy has been having an affair with her 16-year-old sister. That, however, is not quite enough to cure Donna of her physical addiction for Tommy, whose very touch, apparently, lifts her to planes of Elysian ecstasy. Tommy adores her as well, but his protean ability to rationalize his misbehavior is a barrier to their romance.
In scene 2, Donna seeks the advice of her dad (Sal Landi), a once successful artist who is every bit as much of a womanizing reprobate as Tommy. Dad made Donna’s mother’s life a living hell — this, despite the fact that she was ostensibly the love of his life. Apparently, as Dad explains it, his sexual life with his wife was so intense, he needed commonplace couplings with other women as a way to compare with the sublime raptures of his marriage bed.
It’s a mind-boggling rationale for philandering, the more so as it seems seriously intended. But then, throughout the play, Shanley, who went on to win the Pulitzer for “Doubt” and an Oscar for “Moonstruck,” offers relativistic musings about life, sex, death and relationships that are so half-baked, they challenge our logic, not to mention our attention spans.
In the final scene, all the characters come together in a somewhat nihilistic “happy” ending that bodes well — or ill — for all.
The story is scant, the relationships scattershot, the symbology obvious and the blocking occasionally aimless. Yet director Mark Blanchard does get powerhouse performances from his thoroughly engaging actors, who focus Shanley’s fever “Dream” and keep us awake for the duration.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
‘The Dreamer Examines His Pillow’
Where: Lounge 2 Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; ends Sept. 24
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
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