Theatre 40's new play, Dreams of the Washer King, opened January 27th and plays until Feburary 26, 2012.
This dark drama is set in a small Maine town of the 70s. It's played on a surreal and haunted landscape of memory, that is only hinted at from the start.
The logline for the play is a young boy, Ryan (Aaron Shand) searching for proof of his late father's haunting, but that is only the tip of the iceberg for this show. Moving to this small town as neighbors to Ryan and his mother, Claire (Ann Hearn) are Wade (Dirk Etchison) and his daughter Elise (Jennifer Levinson.) Ryan develops a crush on Elise as Claire does on Wade. Little do Claire or Ryan know the secrets of Wade's household. Only when Ryan, using his super microphone, accidently overhears an argument between father and daughter, does he realize that Elise must run away with him. He tries to tell his mother, but she will not hear anything bad. She tries convincing her son that nothing can be done.
Determined to prevail, Ryan chooses a time to meet with Elise in their secret hiding place where all the dead appliances are stored next to the home of Gus, the Washer King. Unfortunate for Ryan, Wade finds them and ends their plans with a finality.
According to Christopher Wall, the writer, "The border between the past and present, as in our own lives, has no firm boundary." Directed by Andre Barron and written by Christopher Wall, the play had many gripping moments, and the story was intense, but at times confusing, and a bit slow. There were several moments when it could have ended - and indeed, the audience started clapping believing that it had concluded -- when in fact, it continued on. I can only conclude that the play, itself, had no firm boundary. I felt cheated by the lack of justice at the end and by Ryan's now haunting.
The acting, itself, was powerful, especially the scenes between Claire and Wade when they talk about bearing their souls and then Wade uses the same tactic on his daughter.
Wall's title alludes to the rumor behind the town's oldest resident, Gus, who, after letting his dream of becoming a master washing repairman fall by the wayside, is surrounded by broken appliances. This theme is resonate in the story of having plans but no follow through, of not wanting to take risks. Wall, himself, suggests that the tale is "about dreams that help us get through the day - and then keep us up at night."
Associate producer was Robert Mackenzie; lighting by Peter Strauss and sound by Robert Ramirez. The set design, evoking the poverty of the family, was by Jeff G Rack and costume by Michelle Young. Stage manager was Erich Schroeder and David Hunt Stafford is Theatre 40's artistic director.
The running time for the show is 2 hours plus a short intermission.
The theatre, hidden on the campus of the Beverly Hills High School, has a separate entrance at the backside of the school, but it's easy to get lost. There are specific directions on the web site.
Admission is $23 for Thursdays and Fridays and $25 on Saturday and Sundays. For reservations, call 310 364 0535 or go to www.theatre40.org.