Front Row Reviewers

Sackerson’s “In Your Dreams”–Prepare to be Delighted–and Surprised

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Guest Reviewer David Grazia for Front Row Reviewers

I have to admit – I didn’t know what to expect.  

Walking into the Malmsten Amphitheatre on the campus of Westminster University to see Sackerson’s In Your Dreams, I was met with the sounds of the breeze moving through trees  (literal breeze through literal trees – we’re outside), water from a creek running over rocks and the slightly intimidating sight of two large boxes – rooms? Monoliths.  

I was instructed to sit in a chair and soon the rules of the show were laid out before me – ‘Go here and look at this, go there and listen to this, go inside of the dream room – oh, and bring this watering can’.  It was unusual, to say the least.

But that sense of the strange and new is one of In Your Dreams’ many strengths.  

I wouldn’t say I’m a Utah theatre novice.  I go out, I see productions. 

Usually I have an idea of what I’m in for. Surprise is often hard to come by.  Sackerson’s newest production, however, is full of surprises.

The staging is unorthodox.  For starters – the audience is limited to six audience members at a time.  This isn’t a raucous party – this is an intimate, raw production that places you into personal (almost secretive) moments in one instance, and then in the next allows you time to breathe and contemplate.  If I’m being honest, it really kind of stunned me – in the best way.  The small audience also kind of bonds in a way – after all, there are indeed only six of you and as you move through the show you start to notice faces and glances thrown to each other as you all navigate this utterly strange and delightful experience together.  

There’s more – you move between playing areas and have a different type of experience in each space.  Some spaces include you listening to music through headphones – and if you allow the show to transport you in these slower, internal moments, it will.  I was keenly aware in these moments of where I was – I was simply an audience member attending a theatre production, but I was also a person watching leaves literally move in the wind next to a flowing lullaby of water while melancholy musical notes filtered into my ears. Moments like these present in the production were a lovely marriage between art and nature and not something I often experience in a theatrical setting.

In other playing areas, you are given items to peruse – a leather book where you can read the dreams of previous audience members or add your own to the pages, ethereal letters, pencils and paper where you can feel free to illustrate your dreams, an old phone where you can listen to a demented and hilarious last message from a doomed citizen, texts that come to your personal phone(!) from an old friend that you’ve never met.  Many of these items are fascinating – I could have spent a far longer amount of time reading the book full of handwritten dreams just by itself.  They way these items drift in and out of the production, and their varied contents, felt very – for lack of a better word – dreamlike. They come without explanation, drop some kind of half-understood message in your lap, and dissolve away again.

In Your Dreams is presented as being ‘eight short plays by four writers for six audience members at a time’.  The eight short plays, written by Morag Shepherd, Matthew Ivan Bennett, Ariana Farber, and Jesse Nepivoda are varied in their material while also being loosely linked and connected around the theme of dreams and the different ways in which they manifest (or, in some cases, don’t manifest).  Instead of having one project with multiple writers sounding disjointed, I was surprised to feel like it actually had the opposite effect – each character I encountered felt true-to-life, expressed vastly different viewpoints, and seemed deeply real.  

These short plays are also where the aforementioned boxes come into play. Each box is essentially a small room about the size of a walk-in closet with a single door as your entrance and exit point.  Before entering the rooms you are either given a prop (a whiskey bottle, for example) or a vocal prompt that is one of the tools that helps set the stage for what you are about to see.  Then the door opens, you walk in, and you find yourself face to face with an actor, just the two of you maybe a foot or so apart.  

The three actors in the performance I saw – Madazon Can-Can, Paul McGrew, and Amona Faatua were all deeply compelling and emotionally honest (on other nights, Jordan Briggs, Juls Marino, and Brynn Duncan are featured).  The nature of the show allows them to show off multiple sides of their skills. Can-Can is both very funny and charming earlier in the show while also later displaying a riveting honesty and sense of groundedness in their closing piece.  Each time I saw them, they grabbed me right away.  McGrew is open and personable one moment and then flashes hints of unease and longing.  His performance in Shepherd’s Plant is compelling with its intensity and absurdity.  Faatua is completely disarming while also being able to slide into a sense of the off-kilter at a moment’s notice.  Watch his sense of build in his first piece – he starts out very amiable and pleasant and then, as the subject matters shifts into weirder territory, Faatua modulates his performance to bend into strange and unpredictable moments.  

The writing and actors also kept me guessing – even halfway through the show I often found myself thinking that I had no idea what to expect next.  Sometimes I found myself laughing.  Sometimes I felt myself deeply moved.  It was downright lovely.  

This production hit me deeply.  Simply – it had a kind of magic to it.  Overseen by the steady hands of co-directors Stephanie Stroud and Morag Shepherd, it upturned any previously held expectations of what the evening might hold.  I haven’t seen anything like it in Salt Lake City that I can remember.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I’ve never seen a Sackerson production before – but, if I’m lucky, In Your Dreams certainly won’t be my last.  

Sometimes not knowing what to expect is a great gift.  

You never really know what possibilities are out there until you’re hit with something new.  In Your Dreams is something new.  See it.

In Your Dreams FB promo video
In Your Dreams IG promo video

The performance will take place at the Malmsten Amphitheater on the campus of Westminster University (Westminster University, 1840 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84105.) The Malmsten Amphitheater is located in a wooded area just south of Dumke Field. Attendees can park in the Dumke Field parking structure which is located under Dumke Field and can be accessed from 1200 East.

Emigration Creek runs directly adjacent to the performance location. Please do not enter the creek while attending In Your Dreams.
Select portions of the show will occur in an enclosed space about the size of an elevator.
Throughout the performance, audience members will be repeatedly moving between several playing areas within a short distance of each other (2-6 feet). The walk to and from the set of In Your Dreams includes a small, unpaved slope.
During certain portions of the show audience members will be listening to audio through headphones.
Due to the format of the show, cancellations made within 24 hours of the performance time cannot be refunded.
Unexpected lives in unexpected places.
Runs approximately 1h 45m.
Paul McGrew, Madazon Can-Can, Amona Faatau – May 3, 5, 17, 18, 19
Jordan Briggs, Juls Marino, Brynn Duncan – May 4, 12, 24, 25, 26
SM: Miranda Giles
Friday, May 24 6:30 – 8:30pm, Saturday, May 25 · 5 – 7pm, Saturday, May 25 7:30 – 9:30pm, Sunday, May 26 5:30 – 7:30pm
Tickets: $35
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