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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Fever/Dream

Fever/Dream
Aston Martin and Stella Strong
Fever/Dream, Sheila Callaghan's play receiving its world premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, is a giddy comedy about dreams and reality in uneasy economic times. If the situation isn't exactly escapist, the play is wonderfully so, enhanced by the unending inspiration of Howard Shalwitz's direction.

Callaghan's play is an update of Life Is a Dream, written in 1636 by the Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca. But where the original play—involving a superstitious king and the son he has kept in isolation since birth—is a meditation on free will and the nature of life, Fever/Dream shifts the setting to corporate America and runs cheerfully with it on a less metaphysical plane.

In place of Calderón's troubled King Basilio is Bill Basil (Drew Eshelman), a ruthless captain of industry who has prevailed by gobbling up his competitors. However, when the audience first sees Basil's banished son Segis (Daniel Eichner), he's in what many people would consider a modern version of Hell: chained to a desk, fed on cold noodles, and forced to spend eternity answering the phone with "Customer service. How may I help you?"

Eshelman gives a fine portrayal of a man who hides his brutal nature behind a mild, even conciliatory exterior, while Eichner openly expresses the conflict between those two sides of his personality.

The corporate intrigue involves tough Stella Strong (Kate Eastwood Norris) and pragmatic Aston Martin (KenYatta Rogers), who expect to take over the company after Basil's retirement; the kindly office manager (Michael Willis) who gives Segis his attention and brings him books and newspapers; a bike messenger on a mission (Kimberly Gilbert); and her goofy sidekick (Jessica Frances Dukes). While Dukes occasionally seems about to spin out of control, she never overbalances the ensemble.

Offering invaluable support are 11 students from the University of Maryland who appear as cogs in the wheel of business. Their roles range from buttoned-up accountants and bored bloggers to disaffected hipsters who want to destabilize the company.

Misha Kachman's scenic design echoes the vertigo of the plot, shifting easily between Segis' foul basement dungeon (which he shares with such obsolete items as a mimeograph machine and a dot-matrix printer) and the gleaming glass 77th-floor executive suite. Bringing further animation to the production are Colin K. Bills' atmospheric lighting, Veronika Vorel's sound design and Evan Martella's video design.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Fever/Dream
June 1st 28th
By Sheila Callaghan
Segis: Daniel Eichner
Rose: Kimberly Gilbert
Claire: Jessica Frances Dukes
Fred Clotaldo: Michael Willis
Stella Strong: Kate Eastwood Norris
Aston Martin: KenYatta Rogers
Bill Basil: Drew Eshelman
Employees of Basil Enterprises: Andrew Blau, Lauren Ciandella, Michael Davis, Alice Gibson, Mark Halpern, Shannon Listol, Amanda Miller, Katie Rooney, Matt Sparacino, Anastasia Stewart, Scott Whalen Directed by Howard Shalwitz
Choreography by Meisha Bosma
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


Photo: Stan Barouh


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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