Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Wakey Up Before It's Too Late

Wakey, Wakey 

Kathryn Smith-McGlynn and Tony Hale Photo: Kevin Berne

Written by Will Eno
Directed by Anne Kauffman
A.C.T Geary Stage, San Francisco

Until February 16, 2020

Reviewed by Christine Okon

Wakey Wakey” begins with Guy (Tony Hale) inexplicably lying face down on the stage floor, waiting for a cue to begin. He climbs into a wheelchair and, like a little kid excitedly describing his first day in school to whoever will listen, begins to unspool a rambling commentary of quirky observations of little moments that delight him: cute YouTube animals, scenic landscapes, home movies, a magic eye optical illusion, and countless fast-cut images streaming on a jumbo projection screen. We are immersed in visual and auditory media whether we like it or not. Hale is engaging as Guy, a loner starved for interaction and addicted to digital technology who shares non-stop, almost desperate, bemused observations.

But he is not alone. Lisa (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) the caretaker enters; she helps Guy but does not patronize or condescend. They banter in random, freewheeling conversation about the meaning of existence and the preciousness of each moment, and we soon deduce that Guy is at the end of his life. With little time left, he scrambles to harvest small, joyful seconds that are so easy to take for granted: little kids playing, a family picnic, a parade, flowers that fill the screen, a star-filled night sky.

Tony Hale  Photo: Kevin Berne
So yes, the message is clear. Stop and smell the roses, cherish the moment, appreciate what you have, be in the Now. Celebrate life! With balloons! (which actually drop from above to cover the stage. All of this--the images, music, and lighting--are literally in your face. The visual bombardment barely allows us room to think or breathe. And it is this aspect of the play that will divide the audience. Those inclined to swipe left for continuously new sensory input might be excited, while others may see that when technology overpowers meaning, the effect can be gimmicky.

Wakey, Wakey” is like a mashup of the cinematic tone poem “Koyaanisqatsi,” the life lessons of “Desiderata,” and the silly giggles of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Despite the solid acting and innovative staging, "Wakey, Wakey" prods the audience to respond to a surprise electric shock from an ungrounded outlet.

Jeff Wittekiend, LeRoy S. Graham III, Kathryn Smith-McGlynn, Emma Van Lare, Dinah Berkeley






Prior to “Wakey, Wakey” is “The Substitution,” a new A.C.T-commissioned short play also written by Eno that takes place in a community college classroom. It features Kathryn Smith-McGlynn as Ms. Forester, a substitute teacher who inadvertently widens the minds of the students who are there for driver’s ed. The cast of this play, comprised of students from A.C.T’s MFA program, is solid, showing a range of types. Whether the two plays are linked is unclear, which may cause confusion.

"Wakey, Wakey," written by Will Eno, directed by Anne Kaufmann. A.C.T. Geary Stage, San Francisco, through 2/16/20. Info: http://www.act-sf.org


CAST for “Wakey, Wakey”
Tony Hale*  Guy
Kathryn Smith-McGlynn* Lisa

CAST for "The Substitution"
Kathryn Smith-McGlynn* Ms. Forester
Dinah Berkeley** Jennifer
LeRoy S. Graham III** Bobby
Emma Van Lare**   Marisol
Jeff Wittekiend**  Jimmy

* Member, Actor’s Equity Association
** Member, A.C.T’s MFA Program Class of 2020

CREATIVE TEAM                     
Written by Will Eno
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Photography:  Kevin Berne
Scenic and Costume Designer Kimie Nishikawa
Lighting Designer Russell H. Champa
Sound and Projection Designer Leah Gelpe
Choreographer Joe Goode
Voice Coach Christine Adaire
Movement Coach Danyon Davis
Dramaturg Joy Meads


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