Exploring the darker sides of society
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Imagine experiencing life on Earth for the first time ever. Where would you possibly begin? What would it all mean? This is the plot of Douglas College’s latest production, A Dream Play, a story about Agnes (played by FJ van Wyk), a daughter of the gods who lands in our reality and discovers what a painful place the world can be.
The play begins as the goddess Agnes appears on Earth and releases a deafening cry from atop a two-storey, tree-structure set that fills the stage. After climbing down a ladder built into the set, she explores the stage and the characters that occupy it. Each character reflects an aspect of humanity, with some being more obvious than others, such as a hopeless romantic soldier (Lucas Bayley), a lawyer (Parker Thompson) who hates divorce, and a stage door keeper (Faedra Mirhashemy) who monitors a door in the middle of the tree that supposedly guards the meaning of life.
To get into character, van Wyk had to recall childlike wonderment to get a sense of what Agnes’ visit to Earth would be like.
“It was challenging to try to experience the world for the first time. It’s been a while since I’ve been a child,” she said.
But in playing this character she’s learned that people have to experience suffering to appreciate joy, much like how the cast and crew have put so many hours into what will only be a weeklong show run.
“It’s bittersweet,” van Wyk explained. “Even on opening night, it’s a short run and then it’s over.”
The play has an ensemble cast of characters, which means the actors have to play multiple roles and perform quick costume changes between, or sometimes within, scenes. For the onstage costume changes, the actor shrugs off one costume to reveal a second one underneath while the other actors around him freeze until the change is complete. The costumes were designed with the changes in mind, so outfits can be changed depending on the accessories that are added or taken away.
“They were small costumes, like a mask, so they were easy to change,” said Nicole Cochrane, who plays multiple roles including the masked quarantine master.
For some actors, it was difficult to switch from one character to another because it meant they couldn’t fully invest in one character.
“I’m very loyal with my characters, so it was hard for me to focus more on one of my main characters as opposed to other characters that I’m not playing as much,” said Mirhashemy.
“The most challenging part of this kind of show is developing your character. They’re very big, very out there,” said Bayley.
A Dream Play features powerful and dramatic performances, astounding set design, a fun soundtrack with instrumental pieces and retro tunes, as well as a powerful message on what makes life worth living.
But this play is not for the faint of heart as it contains violence, sexuality, and language that may offend some viewers. Some scenes take the offensive material to an unnerving level, but it’s part of the play to make the audience uncomfortable so they can feel how unsettling human suffering really is.
A Dream Play is playing in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre at the Douglas College New Westminster campus until March 21. Tickets can be purchased at the door or through the Massey Theatre Ticket Centre by phone at 604-521-5050 or online at tickets.masseytheatre.com