Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
A man (Guy) in a wheelchair, in a room which could use some TLC, talks to no one in particular, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to address specific audience members. He is a complex individual, affected by mental illness sometime in the past. His thought processes meander quite a lot. His age is indeterminate, but in this production he seemed late 60s, maybe early 70s. Guy takes us on a memory journey to multiple parts of his past. It is not always easy for the audience to stay focused, but wandering in and out a bit is not going to cause major confusion as the play is best viewed as an entity, not built on a series of specific pieces.
Urbanite gives Wakey, Wakey an extraordinary production, directed brilliantly by Co-Artistic Director Brendan Ragan with a superb, understated performance by James Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald's regional theatre career has been focused mostly in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Late in the play, Guy is visited by a perky young lady named Lisa, played by Brittney M. Caldwell.
Technical elements of this production do much to illuminate the wildly shifting emotional state of Guy. The scenic design, not specifically credited, but presumed to be by company scenic designer Jeff Weber, is dead on. I looked down at the tile floor and thought "time for new flooring and a good mopping." The walls similarly look worn by time. Dee Sullivan's costumes are brilliant, Guy looks like he threw on whatever was nearest, several buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, undershirt showing through in places. Projection designs by Zachary Hines add some visual interest to a production that is not otherwise exciting on this level. Mike Wood's lighting design is equally important, helping the audience navigate the emotional terrain.
Wakey, Wakey is a really great match for Urbanite's ethos. There are going to be walk outs, in fact there was one at the performance I attended. Because of the play's intentional lack of focus, it takes a commitment from audience members to reap its fullest rewards. I found it fascinating, worth every bit of effort required. Thank you, Urbanite, for another challenging production.
Wakey, Wakey, through September 2, 2018, at Urbanite Theatre, 1487 2nd St., Sarasota FL. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.