Review: Dreamless Land
Julia Jarcho's play tests the boundary between movies and fantasies.
Thu Nov 10 2011
Photograph: Rob Strong
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
In Julia Jarcho's disturbing, surreal delicacy Dreamless Land, one man tries to explain to another why a waitress just bungled an order to hold the onions. "No no in the unconscious," he chirps, as his companion stares down at what he specifically didn't want. In this moment, what hasn't been said matters more than what has been said, and naturalistic banality evolves into something like philosophy. Dreamless Land maps this strange linguistic territory, particularly the tricky places where we mishear, misspeak and let assumptions substitute for meaning. Here, in fact, implication and suggestion supplant plot itself.
While playing video games with her best friend, Morton (Ben Williams), young Haley (Jenny Seastone Stern) idly fantasizes about Morton's absent father, Carver (Richard Toth), and her own future boss Joyce (Linda Mancini). Scenes fall together in a crazy quilt of film clichs (Is Carver a murderous psycho? Is Joyce on the lam?), and the dreams retaliate, bending time and identity into Escheresque loops. Directing her own work, Jarcho handles the fragile text with a lepidopterist's care—such care, in fact, that despite some ravishing scenes, the evening grows a bit long and cold. No one could quibble with the physical production: The cast is fantastic; Ben Kato's supersaturated lighting flashes Miami pink and Yves Klein blue; Jason Simms's set sports supersleek Eamesian lines. It's just that the brilliant Jarcho's tonal froideur penetrates our bones too well, and our attention, loosened by something so tonally homogenous—drifts in the Antarctic chill.