by Christopher Soden
Monday Oct 27, 2008
Dream Awake, a new thriller written by Mark-Brian Sonna and currently playing under the auspices of MBS Productions at The Stone Cottage Theatre in Addison (next to Water Tower Theatre) is an intriguing and riveting new play that raises the questions : where does subconscious end and manipulation begin? How reliable is information gathered in a hypnotic trance? How does one avoid suggesting while facilitating disclosure? How easy are we to mislead when the subject knows what we want to hear? Or at least how to trigger a reaction?
Very often dramas with the simplest plots wind up having the most complex stories. In "Dream Awake" Dr. Eris (the playwright Mark-Brian Sonna)a psychotherapist preparing to move wife and family to Arizona (from Texas) is summoned by the Dallas District Attorney, Eleanor (Linda Much), to determine the facts behind a mystifying double homicide. Lamia (Lindsay Jenkins) has been arrested on suspicion of killing and mutilating two children she babysat. Despite circumstances pointing to her guilt, the case lacks concrete evidence. Lamia claims she was brutally raped by a delivery man who went on to attack the children.
Dr. Eris arrives for his appointment with Eleanor. They don’t exactly hit it off despite her repeated efforts to get chummy. He wants to get on to his new life in Arizona, while she uses all her legal leverage to detain him in Texas. Their tolerance for each other erodes further as the play progresses, and the shouting matches escalate. Lamia herself is enigmatic (to put it mildly) -- lapsing into spells of revelation and animosity, or cowering in her chair without much to say. She is evasive from start to finish, only disclosing information to Dr. Eris at her discretion and to her considerable amusement.
The structure of "Dream Awake" reminds one of those concentric, folk-art nesting dolls. Just when you think you have the answer, you don’t. Dr. Eris is in a hurry, yet he needs to sort through Lamia’s ever-changing narrative so he can acquire the necessary facts to get an indictment or, barring that, at least the truth so he can sign off in good conscience. Eleanor tugs him in one direction, Lamia in the other, and to make matters worse, she begins to foresee the catastrophe in the doctor’s near future. Every time Dr. Eris has a session with Lamia, the situation gets exponentially worse. Sonna’s script is imaginative, engaging, intense and fanciful; dragging us into darker realms where the heroes are at a distinct disadvantage when the sociopath calls the shots.
There are only three characters in "Dream Awake," so naturally, they all have a lot of lines and must sustain their share of the energy and tension. Mark-Brian Sonna, as the doctor, is sympathetic and intelligent, making the best of a bad situation and trying to bear up as his wits and nerves get as fried as overloaded fuses. Lindsay Jenkins takes wicked joy in milking her role as the prisoner and patient. Swinging back and forth from timid to sinister, from shy to fierce, she has great range and passion. Linda Much’s district attorney is formidable and ferocious. She knows how to get things done and what’s required to strike a blow for justice. She could turn Charles Manson (or Judge Judy) to jelly, just like any great DA must.