INSOMNIA by Daniel Brooks with Guillermo Verdecchia, directed by Chris Abraham (Necessary Angel). At Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). To November 26. $20-$35, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. See Continuing, page 91. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
You'll stay awake long after you've seen Insomnia, marvelling at this seamless piece of theatre by Necessary Angel.
Central character John F. is a worried man with a new baby. Played by Daniel Brooks (who wrote the piece with Guillermo Verdecchia), he has a troubled marriage, writer's block, a wildly successful brother and a yen for his brother's wife. No wonder he can't sleep.
Or can he? One character says an insomniac sometimes sleeps without knowing it. And much of the time we're uncertain whether we're in John's inner or outer world.
Maybe what we're seeing are dreamscapes that offer John troubling alternatives to his waking existence. This fine production, directed by Chris Abraham, tantalizes us beautifully with what might or might not be real.
The action in Julie Fox's vibrant red-floor-and-wall set, sharply lit by Andrea Lundy and accompanied by Richard Feren's ominous tick-tock sound design, plays out the doubts in John's life.
Sometimes comic, sometimes grave, John's exchanges with the other characters reveal the neuroses he sees in them: his bitter, unsatisfied wife, Gwen (Fiona Highet); the Disney-salaried bro William (Randy Hughson) of whom John disapproves; and his distant sister-in-law Kate (Colombe Demers), who's given to drifting in and out of conversations.
In the midst of the dramatic riches, a few things don't quite work. Kate could use some fleshing out, and John's stand-up-style diatribe, which involves conjuring a demon to change the world, needs a snappier, more honed presentation.
But these are quibbles. Insomnia is a gorgeous piece of theatre, one that starts in nightmare and unsettles viewers before settling down to a soothing lullaby.