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A CurtainUp Review

Be careful, young man, this might all be a dream.— Fred says to Segis who responds with, But it's my dream.
What is the use of building an empire if there is no blood legacy to receive it.— Bill Basil to Stella Strong and Aston Martin.
Fever Dream
Daniel Eichner (Segis) and KenYatta Rogers (Aston Martin) in Fever Dream
(Photo: Stan Barouh)
One look at Misha Kachman's very clever set and you get the message that something is askew. A New York skyscraper tilts vertically while the home office of Basil Enterprises is slanted horizontally. Perspective is dominant. Colin K. Bills has lit the set in such a way that the windows are reflected by squares on the floor.

What is going on here? Playwright Sheila Callaghan has reworked Spanish dramatist, Pedro Calderón's 17th century masterpiece, La Vida Es Sueño/Life's A Dream, into a morality tale about corporate America. Calderón's original involves a Prince who lives a deprived life in a dungeon until he confronts what is involved in succeeding his father, the King. In Callaghan's 21st century adaptation, Segis (played with youthful vigor and virility byDaniel Eichner), son of Wall Street titan Bill Basil (Drew Eshelman), is brought up from the squalid cellar of the 77 story-high home office of Basil Enterprises, in order to take over the family business.

No dice. Daddy is still resentful that Segis's mother died in child birth on, how's this for irony, Black Monday. Plus Daddy has control issues that go beyond father/son conflicts. Waiting in the corporation's wings, are Aston Martin (KenYatta Rogers, who overplays the obsequiousness of his character) and the suitably named Stella Strong (Kate Eastwood Norris). As the career-driven Harvard/Wharton grad whose ambition never takes a rest, Norris's performance is perfection. She's a very gifted actress who brings something special to every part she plays, from Lady Macbeth to a droll dame in a previous Woolly production, She Stoops to Comedy.

Also worthy of mention is Jessica Frances Dukes who plays, with deadpan humor, Claire the office drone who's , loyal to a fault and does whatever is asked of her, whether or not it makes sense. Director Howard Shalwitz adds some wonderful inside-jokes, such as Bill Basil's appearance from the top of a skyscraper that is akin to the parapet of his castle and his son, in hot pursuit of Stella Strong, sending up Tennessee Williams in the way he yells, "Stella!"

Language is important to Callaghan. In one of the opening sequences, Aston and Stella, lovers who have had a falling out, send each other acerbic messages by Blackberry. The audience is in on the conversation as it is flashed like a zipwire across one of the skyscrapers. Non-p.c. jokes about sexual harassment and corporatespeak clichés such as "bulldozing" and "whipping into shape" are good laughs.

Working with the back office automatons of Basil Enterprises, choreographer Meisha Bosma brings amusing, original movement to the piece. The syncopation of the bloggers —" save us, we have no marketable skills" is a giggle. The same goes for all the vignettes of workers who claim their name is Anonymous and music cues such as Frank Sinatra singing "Dream when you are feeling blue . . .things never are as bad as they seem. . ."" and later, when a helicopter lands (like the iconic image of US embassy workers fleeing Saigon in 1968), to a few dramatic chords from Carmina Burana.

Fever/Dream provides plenty to think about and lots of laughs but the script would benefit from judicious pruning. As playwrights Calderón and Callaghan wrote, "This dream is your own. Do with it what you will."

By Sheila Callaghan
Director: Howard Shalwitz
one of the Employees of Basil Enterprises is MATT, not Mark Sparacino Cast: Daniel Eicher (Segis), Kimberly Gilbert (Rose), Jessica Frances Dukes (Claire), Michael Willis (Fred Clotaldo), Kate Eastwood Norris (Stella Strong), KenYatta Rogers (Aston Martin), Drew Eshelman (Bill Basil), Andrew Blau, Lauren Ciandella, Michael Davis, Alice Gibson, Mark Halpern, Shannon Listol, Amanda Miller, Katie Rooney, Matt Sparacino, Anastasia Stewart, Scott Whalen (employees of Basil Enterprises).
Set Design: Misha Kachman
Lighting Design: Colin K. Bills
Costume Design: Franklin Labovitz
Sound Design: Veronika Vorel
Choreography: Meisha Bosma
Video Design: Evan Martella
Running time: Two and a half hours, one intermission
Woolly Mammoth, 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC; 202-393-3939,
From June 1 to June 28, 2009
Review, by Susan Davidson, based on June 5, 2009 performance.
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