Sunday, October 20, 2019

“Wakey, Wakey” leaves audience emotionally drained at Dobama

"Is it now? I thought I had more time." 

These first words in the play “Wakey, Wakey,” are spoken by Guy, a man who knows that he is about to die. 

Much like the epic “Waiting for Godot,” Will Eno’s emotionally moving script existentially questions why we exist, probes into why we are here, and the possible journeys that are taken to eventually get to the end.

As a long-time end-of-life volunteer counselor for the Hospice of the Western Reserve, I have observed, shared, experienced, and grieved the end of many patient’s lives.  Those last couple of hours or days takes the form of sitting quietly and sharing their space at home, in a nursing facility or at the hospice, or actively communicating with the patient and sometimes, the family.  At times I administered Reiki, guided imagery, or played music to help the exit journey.  At other times I held a hand of the person or that of a family member.  Each case was a life-changing experience.

That experience can be felt, observed, and participated in, by spending a little over an hour at Dobama for their present production of “Wakey, Wakey.” 

We observe, in silence, low level conversations, and yes, even laughter, as Guy, in a wheel chair, recounts his life, with the aid of file card notes and projected pictures. 

His hospice worker ministers to his needs, sweeps the air of psychological impurities (though as administered it looks like a dynamic voodoo ritual rather than a slow aesthetic cleansing which is part of the Reiki ritual), volunteers support, and check to assure that Guy has left his earthly home.

Director Christopher Mirto guides us wisely through the experience, nicely pacing the action and helping the actors texture their roles.

Jason Martin, as Guy, inhabits the role as if he is a master at end of life experience.  His is a meaningful, carefully crafted portrayal, which allows us to feel both identification and empathy.  

Katrice Headd has the difficult role of being present, as Lisa, but not becoming so attached to her patient that his demise devastates her.  She carries it off with gentleness and maturity…the signs of a well-trained Hospice caretaker.

Many contemporary plays incorporate electronic graphics into their productions.  Often, they simply take the place of scenery or are used to create illusions.  In “Wakey, Wakey,” the well-conceived visuals by T. Paul Lowry are a necessity for gaining a full picture of Guys travel through life.

Also impressive is the sound (Derek Graham) and lighting (Marcus Dana) that complement the staging.

Capsule judgment:  Will Eno’s “Wakey, Wakey” is a heartfelt look at the end of life which invites the audience to be psychologically present while the emotional tale masterfully plays itself out.  Justifiably, there is no curtain call.  Who applauds a eulogy?

“Wakey, Wakey” runs through November 10, 2019 at Dobama, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.  Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.

Next up at Dobama is “The Old Man and The Old Moon,” an odyssey of music and theatre magic that speaks to the childish mind in all of us.  Good family entertainment.