Sleepwalker | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Sleepwalker, at Cafe Voltaire.

Dreaming, the body remains inert while the mind goes a-roaming, but when one sleepwalks things are the other way around. This simple observation provides one of the clues that the sleepwalker in Jim McDermott's one-character play discovers, but only after she's somnambulated for several nights through classically Jungian glades. ("I love the woods," she assures us. "But if I were to wake up here, it would scare the hell out of me.") As she shares with us the insights that she will not remember in the morning, the enigma of her nocturnal wanderlust continues to elude her even as she seems to tease us with its meaning.

It would be easy to play McDermott's sleepwalker as the standard-issue neurasthenic of romantic fiction, but Kelley Hazen is too savvy an actress to fall for this, though she travels to every corner of the dank and chilly Cafe Voltaire basement. Instead she opts to have her character discuss symptoms and possible causes with a lucidity that piques our curiosity at every turn and a wryly humorous candor that engages our sensibilities as no amount of weepy hand-wringing could. This matter-of-fact approach to a terrifying phenomenon is what makes our heroine's moment of enlightenment not a grand catharsis but a welcome bit of revelation that we can take with us and use to hurdle the small barriers to everyday happiness so common in our times.


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