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The Soldier Dreams

Theatre East's production of Daniel MacIvor's play about a dying man surrounded by his closest relatives tends towards the overly sentimental.

By New York City
Helen Merino and Bryan Jarrett
in The Soldier Dreams
(© Sherri Jackson)
Helen Merino and Bryan Jarrett
in The Soldier Dreams
(© Sherri Jackson)
A man lies dying, surrounded by his closest relatives in Daniel MacIvor's The Soldier Dreams, being presented by Theatre East at the Lion Theatre. The play contains some elegantly written passages, but unfortunately director Judson Jones tends towards the overly sentimental in the production, which in many ways seems at odds with the tone of MacIvor's actual play.

The central figure within the work is David, performed by two actors -- one who is bedridden and mostly silent (Nick Cianfrogna), and another who is more of a ghost, a memory, or even a dream (Bryan Jarrett). Attending to David is his long-time partner, Richard (Denny Lawrence), his sisters Judy (Christa Kimlicko Jones) and Tish (Helen Merino), and Tish's husband, Sam (William Franke), along with a nurse (Heather Hill).

During the course of the play, various characters deliver monologues to the audience, describing their special bond with David. But ironically, the supposedly unique way each describes he or she had to communicate with David is the same for every single person. MacIvor also occasionally shows the disconnects the characters know about, particularly in a scene in which Richard attempts to talk about the open relationship that he and David shared, as it now bothers him he never inquired about what David did outside their primary union.

And indeed, David's dying thoughts do not center on any of his "close" relatives. He dreams instead of a one-night encounter with a German medical student (Joseph Mitchell Parks), whom David met in Ottawa the night before Tish's wedding. The significance of this encounter is never fully explained, but there is a good chemistry between the two men, even if they say most of their lines to one another by facing front and speaking into a microphone.

As for the other actors, Merino demonstrates a strong emotional connection to her role; Lawrence successfully projects anger and resentment, but could use more shades and subtlety in his performance; Franke seems a bit stiff, but nevertheless does a fine job in his monologue, which is one of the better passages within the play; and Jones brings a sad, yet vibrant quality to Judy that is intriguing.

Director Jones incorporates into his production an original song entitled "Fly," written by Mike Kimlicko and performed by the band, Burn the Maps. The tune is haunting, but Jones uses it in a rather maudlin fashion as Tish stands grieving while other characters play out a pantomime of wanting to comfort her, but not sure if they should. An even more mawkish display comes shortly afterwards as Jarrett's David performs an ill-choreographed dance.

Since both of these scenes come at the very end of the play and neither contain much (if any) dialogue, they make for a rather bathetic conclusion to the show. However, the words contained within MacIvor's bittersweet drama capture a much more complex notion of the inability to truly know someone, even as you are about to lose him.


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