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Jihae Park                  Photo Credit:Max Gordon



                   by  R. Pikser


This theatrical adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story, “Sleep,” is a work of much collaboration:   The adaptation is by Naomi Iizuka; The direction, as important as the acting, is by Ripe Time, a group that develops and presents new ensemble-based performance works, and its artistic director Rachel Dickstein; the sets and production design by Susa Zeeman Rogers are integral to the layers of consciousness represented; Jiyoun Chang’s lighting design is not only integral but revelatory, as is Hannah Wasileski’s projection design; and The Newborn Trio’s accompanying sound (glass percussion metal and glass objects, shakuhachi and other flutes, and drums) supports and illuminates the actions of the other performers.  The understated costumes designed by Ilona Somogyi suggest the soft boundaries of the world of sleep or the unconscious. When we enter this world, we, too, are transported to a world of indefinite boundaries and multi-layered depths and confusions.


However, the real subject of “Sleep” is the question of what it would take to be awake, truly awake.  It asks us whether we, too, are not asleep, whether our lives, if examined, would be worth living.


At the opening of the show, a woman (Jiehae Park) is pacing back and forth in a restricted space, making meaningless, mechanized movements that we will see over and over throughout the show, performed by her and her family, the repetitive gestures of a life spent sleepwalking.  And she talks and talks.  She tells about her days and about her nights without sleep, about her normal life and about her internal life.  She is reflected multiple times in the mirror behind her, or perhaps it is a scrim, since her reflection also turns into shadow, and sometimes the shadows take on lives of their own.  We see layers upon layers, like the nesting boxes mentioned in the text.  We in the audience begin to question what we are seeing and, with her, we begin to question what it all means,.


Brad Culver, Jiehae Park


As the evening progresses, the shadows behind the scrim make themselves visible.  They are costumed as the woman herself is:  They are her other selves.  They begin to talk to the woman who has engendered them, to question her, and, later, to answer her questions.  They sometimes become larger than she is, suggesting that she might grow beyond who she thinks herself to be.  An especially interesting figure is the shadow dressed, not as the woman, but as a sort of invisible grey figure, perhaps representing fate.  Sometimes the figure hovers, sometimes she sets up and supports props, such as a dinner table that she turns to the audience, confusing our sense of perspective as we see the family eating.  Sometimes she stirs some sort of invisible brew or controls the bodies of some of the woman’s other selves.  Who she is, exactly, is never clear, just as if she is indeed fate.  But what is fate?  Is it always present, intervening, interfering, confusing our levels of consciousness?  Is it something we can finally comprehend, if we only escape from our pre-ordered, semi-mechanical lives?



The images of this evening stay with you when you leave the theater and the questions it raises do, also.  One cannot wish for much more from theater.


Rachel Dickstein and Ripe Time

November 29th - December 2nd, 2017

Brooklyn Academy of Music Fishman Space

321 Ashland Place

Brooklyn, NY

Tickets $25

This production is part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival