I’m a sucker for magic realism. I love a story steeped in a world I recognize, breached by elements of fantasy. There is something very appealing about this hybrid of the real and the impossible.
The team behind Then He Wakes Up at Fringe must feel the same. Although advertising themselves as absurdist, the play is very much reliant on the ordinary reality of daily existence as a backdrop for their use of ‘magic’.
In Then He Wakes Up, ordinary reality is life as a married, working adult, and it is a reality that needs to be escaped.
This escape comes in the magic space of dreams: layers of dreams, communally shared dreams, dreams that never end, dreams that are no different from being awake. The play itself is a dream sequence, one that mimics reality while allowing the impossible (like walking down the street and finding yourself back in the spot you just left).
What is problematic for me is that I don’t quite believe this ‘reality’ the whole idea hinges on.
Henry (Jordan Mechano) is supposed to represent the bored, unthinking, ‘normal’ everyman. His life is a series of routine activities that involve ‘pushing numbers’ at work, going to dinners with his wife, and generally doing what is expected of him.
And while Mechano gives a very believable, enjoyable, and funny performance (in fact his performance was my favourite), his character is a little too stock for me to really get into, especially because the other characters are so brilliantly quirky.
I really like what writer Matthew Sarookanian is driving at – if the daily grind is not for you, don’t resign yourself to it. Don’t get trapped in a life that doesn’t make you happy.
But Henry seems too stereotypical to be real, and the daily grind he represents starts to feel like a stereotype as well. To me it doesn’t end up feeling like a reality that needs to be escaped, because it doesn’t really feel like my experience of reality.
The play intends to indulge the absurd, so none of this takes away from its enjoyability – I laughed out loud consistently. If you see this play, you will enjoy yourself. But I’m a Literature grad and a hunter of deeper meaning, and this play’s message does seem to rely on the audience’s belief in the authenticity of a reality that, for me, feels less than genuine.
What I find most interesting is that while offering an escape, the dreams in this play are just as repetitive as the daily routine they claim to offer escape from. Even the magic is a trap. What does this mean? Then He Wakes Up leaves me with questions – and that’s a great thing for a play to do.
- Then He Wakes Up is playing at Venue #10, Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Performances are: July 05 10:30 PM, July 07 11:30 PM, July 08 02:15 PM, July 11 04:15 PM, July 12 03:30 PM, July 14 07:00 PM, July 15 01:00 PM
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only).
- Tickets are also available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
2 thoughts on “Then He Wakes Up (Twisted Chaos Productions) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review”
My name is Henry, and I also push numbers at work, so I was drawn to this character. I really enjoyed the dialogue between him and Felix, but for some reason, I lost interest in the play with the other characters, perhaps their dialogue seemed unreal or bothersome to me. I must admit I saw this at an 11:30pm showing and my fatigue may have kicked in unfortunately.
What I will give this show is that it did explore how people are stuck in a rut. There were some nice bits of irony here and there, for example with one person doing what was dreamed and the other not. Yet of course, there is no reason presented for this difference. I guess that the one who followed the dream was ‘stronger’ willed. I expected a Nike ad during that section or some words from Judge Judy. Overall, I found very little comedy in this piece and was bored at times during the sparse dialogue even though the mystery of the story kept me engaged. The audience only laughed a bit. The main attraction was the mystery and there were some good moments of interactions between the characters. But most importantly, I disagree very much philosophically as to the writer’s treatment of people stuck in routines. The writer expressed that the play was inspired by people’s laziness and poor excuses surrounding being stuck in a unhappy rut of a life. The play does well to poke fun of what is deemed as excuses although the excuses were very one dimensional in the play and for that reason, hard to swallow. As well, the play reduces the lead’s personality to nothing more than a whiner about his predicament even though he can apparently easily leave it. In my view, a very demeaning treatment. On the plus side, the playwright actually demonstrated through ficitional means that ruts are tough to get out of on one’s own. In that way, the hypothesis of laziness and poor excuses are shattered by the play itself. The play will hopefully make its audience think and for that it is ok.
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