This ‘fairy tale’ is my Nightmare

Once upon a time there was a theatre critic at Danspace watching a production of Sleeping Beauty, who got so frustrated with the production that unfolded before her eyes that she wanted to stand up and yell for the actors to please stop. I ordinarily do not have violent reactions against plays, but Sleeping Beauty stirred something in me, which fluctuated between feeling assaulted and feelings of boredom.
This play is, in fact, quite ordinary. It deals with a retrospective of a five-year relationship that emerges from a photo album as a man sits in his wife’s hospital room and speaks to her while she is in a coma. The constant fades to black followed by flashback scenes quickly become monotonous, as do the contrived hospital scenes in which the husband (played by Jonathan Roode) must say things like, “Oh, here we go, this must have been the day we met. I remember it so clearly…” *fade to black*.
My issue with this play stemmed from its characters and the content during the flashback. This play had all the elements of what I think could have been a really interesting satire, except I do not think that is what the writer (Zara Tufts, who also played the wife) was attempting. While in the hospital, the husband seemed too idyllic. The things he said seemed too perfectly scripted and the life that he described was bliss. The reality of the situation, however, painted a different picture, although the characters described themselves as being happy and being blissful.
The couple is presented in flashback as a stripper (and theatre studies student at Dalhousie University) and a bus driver (who could have been a chemist) who spend their time making fun of others, bitching about the rest of the world, drinking alcohol and having sex. The characters are stereotypes from a beer commercial, whose relationship with each other and the rest of the world is superficial at best. The heart in this piece was continually sidestepped for the cheap porn joke, and the result was that not only did I not care whether Sleeping Beauty would ever awake, but I enjoyed the play so much more when Tufts pretended to be asleep.
This play had so much potential for depth and satire. The fact that the protagonist was a stripper had zero consequence on the emotional or narrative aspect of the play. The wife at one point not only claims to be a “feminist,” but also calls William Shakespeare a “fucking misogynist;” two claims that were thrown out to either infuriate or confuse the audience. She then goes on to discuss how she and her husband might sell their child on Ebay, likely so that they could get drunker and have more sex. Of course, the husband in the hospital room later idealizes that same child and his relationship with his mother.
Relationships are complicated, and great writers like Edward Albee and David Mamet have used their art to express the gritty nature of the world. They have scripted some of theatre’s most captivating arguments and created characters that are not always honorable, and some who are despicable. Yet, they are always captivating and full of depth, contradiction and emotion. All this is impossible when you’re watching an extended beer commercial.

The baby in the audience began to cry about halfway through the showing that I saw, and her dad removed her from the theatre. I was jealous.
This production is for mature audiences only. $4.00

Venue: DANSpace
Times: Sun Sept 6 at 6:00pm, Mon Sept 7 at 4:20pm, Thurs Sept 10 at 9:30pm.

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