The Dreamer Examines His Pillow 

THE DREAMER EXAMINES HIS PILLOW, CollaborAction Theatre Company, at Live Bait Theater. The born-in-the-boroughs characters who populate John Patrick Shanley's plays speak in a scattershot thrift-shop poetry laced with profanity. Presumably the playwright means them to come across as giddily romantic, but the dialogue can easily sound just plain silly. Certainly it seems an inappropriate idiom for the play's discussion of Jungian anthropology and treatise on gender politics, which goes beyond Mars and Venus to embrace the whole crazy cosmos. But Cupid needs a helluva arsenal if he's gonna set things straight when a young neobeatnik's got painter's block (which makes him see Dantean visions alongside the beer in his refrigerator) and his girlfriend is likewise haunted, in her case by memories of her bohemian parents' relationship.

A company attempting to forge a coherent story from Shanley's scramble of myth and metaphysics needs a variety of resources. Collabor-Action director Liza Williams and her cast steep the play's heightened proletarian language in psychological and intellectual subtexts that draw us into Shanley's pixilated universe; the uncredited set design adds a touch of cut-rate magic realism. Diahanna Davidson and Alex Emanuel navigate the lovers' confusion with charming ingenuousness, and Andrew Sten plays their sage counselor with an equally engaging earthiness--though we first see him in a red bathrobe seated with a bottle of vodka at his feet like Jove on his throne (if Jove drank vodka instead of ambrosia).

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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