DREAM MACHINE by Blake Brooker and David Rhymer, directed by Brooker, staged by Denise Clarke, with Clarke, Andy Curtis, Onalea Gilbertson, Michael Green and Brad Payne. Presented by One Yellow Rabbit and Theatre Passe Muraille at Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to March 20, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $24-$34, Sunday pwyc-$16. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
One yellow rabbit's dream machine is an homage to 50s beats Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and the lesser-known Brion Gysin.
The show is, well, offbeat, but you can't argue with its evocative and strong theatricality. Burroughs and Gysin invented the machine of the title, which used flickering light to cause a state of dreaming while awake. The show itself suggests that kind of flickering quality as well, with its 19 strung-together shards of text and song reflecting different aspects of the writers' lives and creations. This play is about mood and mood enhancement, not narrative.
The beats were nonconformists, experimenters and rebels; sex, drugs and art were their primary drives. Dream Machine is a musical that knowingly lacks a book and clearly drawn characters. But since director Blake Brooker 's script and lyrics - with a bit of real Ginsberg thrown in - are so witty, suggestive and atmospheric, and the score, largely by David Rhymer , covers such a wide musical palette, the result is a rich, involving world.
It's a pleasure to have the Calgary-based company back in Toronto. It features one of the slickest performing ensembles in the country, and associate artist Denise Clarke has staged the show with her trademark physical inventiveness. She's found a physical language that beautifully counterpoints the text and musical work.
It's pretty much a guys' world, with Michael Green and the acrobatic Brad Payne stepping in at various times as Ginsberg, and Andy Curtis taking on Burroughs. But the women have their moments, too. Onalea Gilbertson is heartbreaking in a bluesy number as a housewife caught in an everyday prison from which she wants to escape. In another segment, Clarke dexterously weaves together some thoughts on killer love and killer pain.
There's humour, tragedy, desire and satire here, served up with impeccable timing by the performers, and sharp music played by a classy band. It's impossible not to get a little high on the production's energy and verve. These Rabbits rock.