Sunday, February 28, 2021

484. SLEEP. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Don Fellows, Verona Barnes, Dorrie Kavanaugh, David Spielberg, Barton Heyman, Norman Bush, Conard Fowkes. (Photos: Martha Swope.)
SLEEP [Comedy-Drama/Hospital/Nudity/Race/Science] A: Jack Gelber; D: Jacques Levy; S: Kert Lundell; C: Willa Kim; L: Roger Morgan; P/T: American Place Theatre (OB); 2/10/72-3/11/72 (32)

Gil (David Spielberg) is a young man, an average guy, who is experiencing various personal difficulties at home and work. He volunteers to be a paid participant in a sleep research lab where he is placed in a bed and allowed to dream. As he sleeps his dreams come to life are enacted by him and four Black and white actors who portray his dream figures.

Gil’s emotional, marital, sexual, and employment crises are shown, none of them especially unusual. The doctors frequently wake him to pump him with questions, most of them apparently innocuous. In one scene, a Black mugger dreamed of by Gil forces him to strip, and Gil dances in the nude, enjoying his liberation. At the end, playwright Jack Gelber leaves us with “The implication . . . that man’s mind always remains basically unsusceptible to precise investigation,” as Clive Barnes explained it.

What Michael Smith called a “soporific” work was not received with open arms, Walter Kerr referring to its “portentous remarks . . . and embarrassingly literal visual metaphors,” and Barnes to its having a “concept . . . a great deal better than the play itself.”