An influential drama has been adapted for over a century
As a preface, I refuse to pretend that I understood everything that took place in “A Dream Play” by August Strindberg. It also may not have been beneficial to have not been aware of Strindberg or his previous works until I was in my seat reading the program before the show.
However, I have good faith that most other audience members didn’t have the slightest idea as to what they should expect, or what they just witnessed. “A Dream Play” is a refreshing take on dreams coming to life that pushes the limits of one’s concept of storytelling.
The production focuses on a young woman named Agnes, a daughter of the gods, who desire to come down to Earth so she better understands humankind.
As she spends more time with various humans, all she begins to see is pain, sorrow and suffering in everyone. The cold and dreary world that she has come to is far from what she was expecting. Agnes slowly comes to accept that humans only have an endless repetition of “duty, sin and guilt” until they pass.
As she interacts with more characters, a microscopic amount of hope is found for many of the suffering humans. While this all may take place in a dream, Strindberg’s influence was all around him in real life.
As Strindberg became more well-known and cemented his legacy, his known dementia had worsened. He went from making plays in a linear fashion that appeased all audience members to making shows that push the boundaries of time, performances and the audience’s sanity to their limits.
After having gone through a period of extremely severe psychotic episodes, Strindberg decided to turn how he felt into a grand performance. “A Dream Play” was created as a fragmented reflection of how we view our dreams and his attempt to analyze its meaning. While the play deliberately goes against the norms of theatre, the result is nothing short of spectacular.
While the story of this play is scattered and sporadic, the production, set design and performances were at their peak. While there was not a bad performance by any cast member, Hanna Stout (Agnes) and Zack Christensen (Officer) gave some of the most memorable performances, offering heart and soul in every line delivered.
Fascinating set pieces and transitions operated as if they were hypnotizing the audience.
Just as one’s dream is filled with objects and ideas from their life, each set contains repetitive thematic elements and set pieces. The most prominent recurring piece is a mysterious door that many are curious about what is behind it. This curiosity by the characters extended to the entire audience, with every crowd member begging to explore and discover the truth.
These recurring aspects of different moments in the play resemble a person’s dreams and the symbolism that comes from them when dissected on a deeper level, leading us to a state of confusion. But it’s this confusion that our dreams give us that leaves something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined ourselves.
When the lights went up, the audience was filled with confusion, but it was a good confusion. Many that went in without any background knowledge (such as myself) were amazed at what they had just seen, even if they didn’t know what it was they saw.
While the play itself may not have made complete sense to many with very little knowledge, that doesn’t mean that audiences can’t have a great time attempting to understand the unknown.