Being Alive

“You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”—Paul McCartney

I think this quotation best sums up Will Eno’s Wakey, Wakey which is currently playing at the BlueBarn Theatre.

Normally, I open my reviews with a brief synopsis of the play’s story.  This time I’m going to wait until the end as this particular show completely eschews the normal narrative style.  From my experience, Eno seems to have a knack for creating an everyman character to communicate with the audience.  Perhaps this everyman is the audience or at least its conscience.  Ostensibly the play’s unnamed central character is here to say good-bye, but shares a far more powerful message in a story that truly fits BlueBarn’s season-long theme of memory.

Barry Carman offers up a stunning piece of direction in this show.  Every single word.  Every single pause.  Every single look.  Every single breath.  Every single move has purpose.  Seldom have I seen such a meticulous piece of direction or staging.  Carman has also led his two performers to extraordinary performances and I was particularly keen on his “less than more” animation of his actors.  They neither move a lot nor need to.  As I said earlier, when a movement is made, a definite purpose is behind it.

Aaron Zavitz plays the unnamed central character (listed simply as Guy).  Who is Guy?  Unknown.  But tonight he is apparently a talk show host as that’s the vibe he gives out, further bolstered by a hanging “No Applause” sign and a reference to a special guest.  From the get-go, Guy seems to be marking time to an ending and is talking with the audience solely to pass that time.

Zavitz is a marvel in the role.  His rich, mellow baritone filling the theatre as he talks with us about anything and everything, but mostly about life.  Zavitz’s delivery is exceptionally extemporaneous.  He truly sounded like he was making everything up as he went and this is well-suited for his character who seems a trifle disorganized with his out of order note cards and his unseen help who sometimes goof up his audio and visual cues, if not outright pranking him on word jumbles.

Zavitz is quite likable and is, at turns, funny, nervous, serious, happy, melancholic, even slightly desperate as he tries to teach the audience about being alive.  Most impressive is his character’s deterioration over the course of the show.  Guy is sick and weak and gets progressively more so over the course of the show as Zavitz’s chest begins to collapse in on itself, his mobility decreases, and his mental focus falters.

Echelle Childers is equally wonderful as the mysterious helper, Lisa.  There is something otherworldly, dare I say, angelic about this character.  Childers is so gentle and loving as Lisa as she carefully massages and soothes the wearied Guy, offers him hibiscus juice, and tidies him up before wheeling him offstage and she does it all with a beatific smile on her face.  I was moved by her soft-spoken nature which permeated her entire being up to and including a little dance she performs while Guy takes a brief catnap.  Her character seems to hold a vast store of wisdom as she shares a few of her own stories and outlooks with the audience.

Craig Lee’s set adds to the ethereal nature of the show with a seemingly abandoned room save for a few boxes that is dominated by a large screen, massive windows in the rear, and never used door on house left.  Lights and sounds are absolutely critical to this piece and Bill Kirby rises to the occasion with his lights suddenly clicking on and off, soft music, flashy disco lights, and a moment simulating sunrise.  Kirby is also responsible for the projections which ranged from the sweet to the amusing.  Susan Clement-Toberer has costumed the actors well with the ordinary shirt and jeans for Lisa and the bedrobe and rumpled clothes/pajamas for Guy.

So what is the story of Wakey, Wakey?  It’s simply YOUR story.

Wakey, Wakey plays at BlueBarn Theatre through Feb 23.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm except for a 6pm show on Feb 16.  Tickets cost $35 ($30 for seniors) and can be obtained at www.bluebarn.org or by calling 402-345-1576.  The BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

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