The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
the dreamer examines his pillow

Hail to you, O my refrigerator. Is myself in you? Can this be right?— Tommy

Lauren Nicole Cipoletti as "Donna," Dennis Parlato as "Dad" and Shane Patrick Kearns as "Tommy."
(Photo: Natalie Artemyeff)
It wasn't until well into the dreamer examines his pillow now at the Flea Theater, that it hit me: it's a comedy. The clownish characters should have been a giveaway. The off-kilter dialogue as well, if a little less so. But where were the laughs? Hidden under angst and anger, moaning and groaning, delivered at a screeching 1000 decibels. In other words, nowhere to be found.

dreamer. . . examines the broken relationship between Tommy (Shane Patrick Kearns) and Donna (Lauren Nicole Cipoletti). It starts with Tommy sitting in a decrepit one-room apartment with whitewashed walls and a morbid self-portrait with a slash of red where one of the eyes should be. The room is barely furnished: bed, chair, plastic crates, mini-refrigerator.

Tommy, wearing a sleeveless undershirt that looks like it hasn't been washed in weeks, is talking to the refrigerator. It's not clear why, but later in the play the refrigerator opens on its own and emits a burst of light. It's not clear why that happens either. With a pained expression that never leaves his face, Tommy looks as rundown as his surroundings.

Then there's a knock on the door. It's not just any knock; it's a loud, insistent barrage of knocks. It's Tommy's one-time girlfriend, Donna, replete with a New York accent so thick you could cut it with a knife. She's angry because she's heard Tommy's been doing it with her sixteen-year-old sister, Mona. Tommy, who seems to have a way with the ladies despite his degenerate condition, admits it's true. Donna goes ballistic. There's shouting, shouting, and more shouting.

And even more shouting. It seems like not a line is delivered at normal volume. There are actually some funny lines in this scene but they get drowned out by the noise. Still, it's clear there's lingering electricity between Donna and Tommy. Several times they end up in ta compromising position, but one of them — that would be Donna — breaks off. Finally, Donna, for reasons also not fully clear (What else is new?), decides she has to consult with her father.

Donna and Dad (Dennis Parlato) are not on the best of terms, but they talk and he explains that the reason he cheated on her deceased mother was that his love for her was so intense he couldn't stand it. It's a line that Donna buys, but she's not the one he was cheating on. He dispenses would-be wisdom and agrees, at Donna's behest, to go see Tommy, to either straighten him out or beat him up. Donna shows up in a wedding dress.

the dreamer examines his pillow was written by John Patrick Shanley, who won the Pulitzer Prize about twenty years later for Doubt. It's hard to believe it debuted in 1986, just a year before Moonstruck, for which he wrote the screenplay. Both works are whimsical, but dreamer. . . is cutting without being cutting edge. It confuses abrasive with funny. And it only occasionally finds a way to connect its rough-and-tumble characters to laughs.

The crucial first scene, which not only sets the stage but also constitutes the essence of the play, is all on one note. A little variety would have served it well.

Scenic designer Julia Noulin-Merat does a bang-up job establishing the seediness of Tommy's living quarters and, by extension, his life. Yet when the same set is rearranged, with different coverings on the bed to create Dad's place, something is put under the covers that forms a long lump, almost like a body. It's distracting — you keep waiting for someone or something to jump out.

As Donna, Cipoletti is an explosion of energy. She yells too much, at least when she's with Tommy, but there's something behind it. She carries the show, and that's a lot to carry.

Kearns's Tommy is a loser's loser. He's devoid of charm, a miscalculated acting and/or directorial choice, since it's hard to fathom what Donna sees in him. Parlato makes a fine, sagacious Dad. Would that he had some erudition to share.

You have to wonder what made the Attic Theater Company revive this second rate work from a playwright whose oeuvre contains so much better work.

the dreamer examines his pillow by John Patrick Shanley 
Director: Laura Braza
Executive Director: Ted Caine
Cast: Lauren Nicole Cipoletti (Donna), Shane Patrick Kearns (Tommy), Dennis Parlato (Dad)
Scenic Design:  Julie Noulin-Merat
Costume Design: Lauren Gaston
Lighting Design: Dave Upton
Sound Design: Beth Lake
Production Stage Manager: Amy Pen
Technical Director: Joe Cooley
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Attic Theater Company,at The Flea Theater 41 White Street
From 7/25/15; opening 7/30/15; closing 8/15/15 July 25th,; opening July 30th; closing August 15th
Reviewed by Michael Bracken based on July 28th performance
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of the dreamer examines his pillow
  • The review made me eager to see  the dreamer examines his pillow
  • I disagree with the review of the dreamer examines his pillow
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary

©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from