To open its twelfth season, Impact Theatre follows up February's production of Cartoon, Steven Yockey's play about a bloody coup among Saturday morning cartoon characters, with another piece by the thirty-year-old playwright.
Sleepy is a short evening of creepy interlinked vignettes that lasts a little over an hour, but it feels like Yockey had to stretch it out to make it even that long. In the best of the pieces, John Terrell sees a double of himself kissing a beautiful woman (Jessica Kiely) and decides to ask her about the guy, setting off a string of mistaken identities that escalates into disaster. What makes this scene effective is its snappy, fast-paced round-robin of colliding first-person narrators.
Another decent section has Cartoon veteran Marissa Keltie reliving a gruesome, sickening childhood trauma. Keltie does an excellent severe-emotional-trauma stare that's perfect for this scene, but what really makes it chilling is Seth Thygesen's mild-mannered smile and kindly voice as the scary stranger she finds in the house in the middle of the night. There's also an amusing, if seemingly pointless, bit in a Hotel Elevator of Doom with a spooky bellhop (Terrell) and a shiv-wielding dominatrix (Keltie).
But the first and last sections are lackluster, hackneyed exchanges that rely on thudding shock endings for impact. In the opening bit, a very young married couple Gabriel A. Ross and Pamela Davis come off like fidgety, peevish teenagers have one of those breakup conversations in which neither is listening to what the other is saying, which makes it difficult to tell when someone's self-soliloquizing or actually addressing the other character.
Although Kiely has brash film-noir appeal as a mystery woman in the doppelganger section, she's introverted to the point of being inert as a mumbling gal with an unexpressed crush in a final romantic-obsession bit with a sullen Keltie that goes nowhere or rather loops right back to the play's begining with a literal bang.
The twist non-endings make Sleepy seem like a gimmicky Twilight Zone knockoff, and that may be the idea. The six actors are left adrift in a netherworld of missed connections, implied menace, and very dim lighting.
Call it the Sleepy Zone.
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