Hush a bye, don’t you cry…
Let those words guide you to sleep as you drift into Sweet Dreams: The Prologue. The latest production by Shine On Collective introduces participants to Philip, a young man looking for his lost love, and Rose, the object of his desire. Similar to a whimsical fairy tale, the two are bound together by their love and dreams. But Sweet Dreams isn’t your typical fairy tale; instead it upends the preconceived notions that the audience may have and offers a glimpse into the pair’s shared past and the darkness that may lurk just beneath the surface.
Philip, played by Alexander Echols, is the ostensible knight of the story and has been searching for Rose since she mysteriously disappeared years earlier. He doesn’t have a noble steed, but he does have a moving truck. He’s used that truck to traverse the country in an attempt to find any sign that may lead him to Rose so that he can rescue her. He knows he is the hero of the story and that means that he is meant to find her eventually, after all she is his dream girl, his princess, and every story ends with the princess’ lover saving her. But, as he opens up, it becomes unclear whether Rose is actually his dream girl or an idealized version of the women he can’t stop dreaming of. While he’s been beat down by his long, unfruitful search, he is both optimistic and desperate. Though that optimism may be a bit murky; does he know he’ll find Rose because he has hope or because he’s been told that the hero always rescues the damsel in distress? The more Philip talks, however, the more obvious those tiny cracks in his façade become. Echols nails Philip’s desperate tone and emphasizes the cracks just enough to leave those who’ve come to assist him wondering where his true thoughts lie.
While Philip can’t stop dreaming about Rose, Rose can’t stop dreaming. Played by Hannah Faust, Rose is the Sleeping Beauty of this narrative and Shine On is not interested in having her lie idly by while Philip tries to save her. Once participants enter her dream world, it’s clear that she’s trapped both literally and figuratively. She’s stuck in that dream world and doesn’t know where she is or how she ended up trapped in a dream. Rose ‘s struggles with choice, love and what they’ve meant in her life and what they should mean going forward are just as important as how she got there. Perhaps her understanding of those ideas is even more important. Faust perfectly conveys Rose’s sadness and anger at what’s led her to this point, but also imbues her with confidence and a quiet strength. Like Philip, she knows how the fairy tale ends; the valiant knight defeats the monsters and awakens the sleeping princess, but is that what she wants? As Rose grapples with what this all could mean for her, she comes to an important conclusion that sets the stage for the next chapter in this story.
Anna Mavromati’s script for The Prologue delves into these important and thought-provoking questions by modernizing the idea of a classic fairy tale. While most fairy tales sideline women, even in their own stories, Sweet Dreams is set up to make sure Rose is front and center. By blending reality and dreams, Mavromati explores what choice and love mean to women trapped by the crushing expectations of men, women, and society as a whole.
Furthermore, the set itself is also impressive. The entire story takes place in Philip’s moving truck and utilizes every inch of space, from the cab to the back of the truck. Without saying too much, audience members are escorted to the back of the truck before they discover a rather astonishing set for such a small space. Marlee Delia’s direction is vital as participants are deftly moved through each section without ever encountering another participant.
With this show, Shine On Collective offers a tantalizing glimpse into their new fairy tale world. The Prologue tackles some heavy material but by filtering it through the lens of a modern fairy tale, it generates an intelligent social commentary on what those ideas would mean today. It also provides just enough of an introduction to Rose, Philip, and their world to grab the attention of their audience and entice them to come back to learn more as they slip deeper into Sweet Dreams.
Sweet Dreams: The Prologue will be remounted periodically during the San Diego Fringe Festival between June 30 – July 31. Part Two, another, different preview show will run during Midsummer Scream in Long Beach on July 29-30. Part 3, the main show, will run periodically throughout October and November.
Tickets for Sweet Dreams: The Prologue are available through the Fringe Festival’s official website. For even more Fringe Festival recommendations, check out Haunting’s interviews with the creators of 2017 Fringe shows like Narcissus and Echo and Dark Arts, reviews of shows like Slashed! The Musical, The Rise and Fall of Dracula, Normal, Fire & Light, and Easy Targets or a full listing of notable experiences on our events page.