Dreams fascinate us. We study and interpret them to help us find meaning to our existence. Not much is different for the characters in Peter Hardy’s Mysterious Connections at The Essential Theatre Festival.
The production centers around four characters in an unnamed college town: a film student, a dominatrix, a university employee and a college student. It begins with a provocative scene, where the absence of dialogue speaks more than the characters could. The coldness that Pamela (Celia-Gunn Zaboli) gives Travis (Ben Silver) is the perfect antithesis to his longing, and it tells the audience volumes about the characters. The non-verbal communication segues nicely into the next scene at a restaurant.
There, Jonesy (Nancy Powell) lunches with Isobel (Daryl Lisa Fazio), a student who also works as a in the Philosophy Department at the college where the story is set. She is introduced to Pamela at the lunch where a possible romantic relationship is hinted at. When Isobel helps Pamela examine her haunting dreams of a masked figure, hidden secrets are revealed and a connection through dreams is explored.
The play has an interesting concept, but it tends to get bogged down in the metaphysical aspects of it. In addition, the characters blend together with the exception of Jonesy. Powell handles the role exceptionally and creates a character that is memorable and enjoyable to watch. While Jonesy’s role in the play isn’t central to plot, she provides much comic relief due to Powell’s down-to-earth delivery.
Fazio’s Isobel displays a sense of timidity that works well for the character, and Zaboli’s take on Pamela is almost goth-like – sans the makeup – while school-girlish at other times. It is a somewhat confusing choice, but it is just as much the script as the actress’ choice. As Travis, Silver gives a solid performance as the young man obsessed with Pamela.
Directed by Ellen McQueen, the staging of the show works well with Jonesy’s apartment on one side, Pamela’s secret bedroom on the other and a roof top expanse in the middle. The staging is at its best during the scenes where Pamela and Isobel look at the stars. Here the lighting, the projections and the staging work together beautifully.
As the play concludes, there is a sense of closure, and it is satisfying. The storylines are wrapped up neatly and do not feel contrived. Yet, even then, it is hard to make sense of the big picture. It is a convoluted narrative, but one that will leave you curious about the mysteries of dreaming.
The Essential Theatre Festival runs through August 11, 2013 at Actor’s Express with Stray Dogs, Mysterious Connections and Swimming with Jellyfish playing in repertory. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. Mysterious Connection’s runtime is a little over two hours with an intermission.
– A Wesley