All I Have to Do | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

All I Have to Do 

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All I Have to Do, Footsteps Theatre Company. This unassuming hour-long piece tells us something we already know: that dreams are reservoirs that feed our lives. Writer-director Jennifer Evans Ward frames a night of danced dreams in which a Sleeper navigates the globe, diving into underwater caves and flying over oceans, with the same woman's brittle, superficial blind date.

Where would you rather be? And yet something about other people's dreams puts us off, an effect Ward tries to avert by having the Sleeper nervously tell her date a long dream story, then apologize: perhaps the writer's own excuse. But the vividness of Ward's writing as she describes dream encounters with snakes in seedy hotels and the panicked loss of rotten teeth does pull us in, as does Ann Burrows's rapt, feverish delivery of these descriptions as the Sleeper. Rachel Hemphill's wordless performance as the Dreamer--the Sleeper's representative in the dreams--adds to the piece in a cooler way: her articulate face and hands convey the dreams' emotions, freeing the narrator to ignore them. The three more abstract dream figures don't fare as well: the untrained movement devised by the group sometimes hits, sometimes misses.

In fact the movement is just one awkward aspect of a staging that's often a bit clunky and naive; the image that closes the night of dreams is moving, but the stagecraft is noisy and blatant. Other flaws have more to do with the writing than the staging: the Jungian dream theory is unnecessary, and the epilogue is disappointing--Ward sets us back down in the real world with a thud, preserving only one slim strand from the rich tapestry of dreams. It's a shame to end this vivid, chaotic journey so prosaically, back in the world of dates and true loves.

--Laura Molzahn

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Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman Museum of Contemporary Art
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