The Dreamer Examines His Pillow

15 Dec

‘What is sex for?’ adult Donna asks her father.

‘For making babies!’ he replies; an answer so shockingly and refreshingly obvious that it hides the very strangeness of the question.

‘What is sex for?’

What is it for?

What’s being expressed here is a powerful desire for structure, an overwhelming need for certainty. Donna is asking someone with supposed authority to tell her how the world is organized. She wants her father to say that things are this way, and not that way, or that way, or that….

John Patrick Shanley’s play is rich and thought provoking. His characters speak with a street poetry that overflows with gloriously fresh imagery. The play bristles and sparkles with the contrast between plain speaking and magical attempts to capture the unknowable.

Donna and Tommy are trying to work it out.  Should they be together or not? It would probably be easier if Tommy knew who he was and what he was responsible for. (Another strand of Shanley’s intriguing exploration of certainty.) It would also be easier if Tommy wasn’t sleeping with Donna’s younger sister.

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Ainslie Clouston and Scott Lee give brilliant performances as the lovers, and Peter McAllum is wonderful as Donna’s father.

Tom Bannerman’s clever set brings the TAP alive.

Director Vashti Pontaks’ production is funny and deeply stimulating. (And not just because of the discussions of sex, though they’re interesting. Shanley’s vision of sex and romantic love is a controversial one. Of course, the play doesn’t really reduce desire to a mere component in biological reproduction. Indeed, to my taste, Shanley actually overstates the power and importance of sex in our lives. And yes, I know, that’s a bold claim to hide away in a set of parentheses.)

But the play is an exhilarating reminder of the danger of reducing anything to something else.

For when we rob Life of its richness, it is we who are poorer.

Veronica Kaye


The Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley

at TAP Gallery til 21st Dec

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