Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


A revised performance schedule almost caused me to miss If Only In My Dreams. Instead, I found myself at what had become the last performance in the Blackbird Theatre's longtime home. A mere two actors, Barton Bund and William Myers, gave the place not just a marvelous sendoff, but a cool and challenging take on a Christmas play.

If Only In My Dreams is a collection of four short stories and novel excerpts, told by their authors (Bund and Myers tackle two writers each). The set for this production is scaled way back; in fact, the open space, corner bar, and mismatched furniture evoked a Christmas-decorated basement. With very little to look at, and a single performer onstage at a time, the challenge of this production is earning and keeping an audience's attention, and Bund and Myers exceeded my expectations.

Boosted by the richness of the material, the performers inhabit Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Roch Carrie, and Dylan Thomas and give them a litany of studied mannerisms and intricate activities that enhance the stories. Director Michael Williams deserves credit for his precision; his direction blends efficient action with well-earned stillness, and the result is more engaging than a simple recitation. As Kerouac, Bund wastes not a single gesture, even as the character explodes with nervous energy and spontaneity. His Thomas wryly closed the show with a tricky and wandering story, during which the actor gave an unruffled jab at a ringing cell phone to completely win over the annoyed crowd. Myers gives the shortest and longest pieces, including the funniest of the bunch in "The Hockey Sweater," with Carrie a slightly uptight French Canadian reliving a child's disappointment. He is also up to the challenge of the most recognizable (and easily parodied) personality in Capote, proving an idiosyncratic but never awkward narrator. However, Capote's "A Christmas Memory" suffered by being the longest — even though it contained some of my favorite moments, during pauses between the later sections I began to wonder, despite myself, whether it was over.

The action continues between stories, as singer Gayle Martin takes a lounge-y approach to a handful of Christmas standards. Martin knows how to work the small space; unfortunately, not all the arrangements suit her voice and style, leading to some lesser performances by the end.

As alluded to above, the Blackbird has been temporarily uprooted as it moves to a new, dedicated space in downtown Ann Arbor. Fortunately, another weekend of If Only In My Dreams is scheduled at the SH\'aut\ Bar in Kerrytown, and I don't see how a change in venue could diminish the strengths of this production. The old Blackbird had charm in its sheer ingenuity — the space functions as a day care center during the week, with little reminders like the kid-sized restrooms and toys stored under the risers — and, although the pint-sized accoutrements are being left behind, I have faith that its creativity and raw entrepreneurship will remain.

1 Comment:

  1. Unknown said...
    I want to see this one...

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