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Life is a Dream Long View Gallery (1302 9th St. NW)

Remaining Performances: Friday, July 18 @ 8 PM; Saturday, July 19 @ 2 PM & 8 PM

They say: “Segismundo has spent his whole life imprisoned in a rocky tower until he wakes one morning the crown prince of Poland. Is this a dream? What dark secret has kept Segismundo locked away? This 17th century blockbuster forces us to examine how our actions can create the enemies we fear.”

Brian’s take: Ok, so what did I learn from this production? Life is a Dream is perhaps one of the most resilient plays in the western canon. That Calderón de la Barca’s masterpiece withstands the hack job given it by the ladies (this is an all-female affair) of Uncut Pages Theater Company is a testament to the piece’s timelessness.

Charlotte Rahn-Lee, who doubles as Clarin, a Sancho Panza-type sidekick, and Astolfo, the egotistical Muscovite prince, is the only competent actress on the stage. None of the others have any idea what to do with themselves: they hold their hands stiffly at their sides, they bob their heads around, they shuffle their feet, they walk backwards. (It doesn’t help that the staging is a shambles.) In order to convince us that Segismundo has spent his life chained in a tower, Becky Fullan resorts to clenching her teeth for 2 hours and 5 minutes (yes, the 100 minute claim in the program is a lie) and panting heavily. I would’ve offered her a retainer and/or an inhaler had I not been severely frightened of her.

I love this play, and it saddens me to see it desecrated so. But still, whether or not they understood the emotion or the meaning or the fact that people had actually paid $15 to see this malarky, the performers did manage to speak Calderón’s words with a certain amount of articulation. And it was in these words—the wit and pathos and poetry and sage koans of one of the finest plays ever penned—that I took my solace.

(That, and in the cool Edward Weston-inspired pepper paintings lining the wall of the art gallery-turned-theater.)

See it if: You’ve been meaning to read or re-read this play and just haven’t gotten around to it.

Skip it if: Yeah, you’ll probably skip it. I don’t blame you.