STRENGTH IN NUMBERS PROVES VALUABLE IN “CONTROLLED DREAMERS,” CCM’S CONTEMPORARY TALE OF STUDENT UNITY
Posted On April 26, 2019
Review by Kevin Reynolds of “Association of Controlled Dreamers”: CCM Acting
For the past three years, UC’s College-Conservatory of Music has hosted a Playwrights’ Workshop where, among other projects, the attendees develop a commissioned play from a guest playwright. The most recent of those plays is “Association of Controlled Dreamers” by one of the staff writers from the Netflix show “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” MJ Kaufman.
What Kaufman, et.al. have created is truly contemporary
story of the divided world we find ourselves in, the power of family, and how
the next generation may need to find a way to unify to exert influence over
those in power.
The production begins with a series of vignettes that allow the audience to meet the extensive cast – 15 in all. (Well, most of the cast…more on that in a moment.) While there’s crossover, you find one group are members of the college’s Queer Student Union, and others have joined a research project teaching and recording lucid dreams. That crossover of several students brings everyone together to thwart legislation that would destroy public education in favor of funding and vouchers for private and faith-based institutions. The man behind the bill, Senator Matthews, is the youngest senator in US history (forcing a constitutional amendment to allow him to serve since he’s under 30) with eyes on the White House, and one who enjoys the power and the perks that come with it. Matt Fox portrays Matthews, as well as his twin brother, Twin, as two opposite sides of the same coin. As their mother (played by Amanda Nelson) slowly dies from cancer, you wonder about the concept of nature vs. nurture and how two humans from the same egg can be so diametrically opposed. There may be a clue late in the play but it’s an argument not settled here.
The combined group decides civil disobedience is the only
solution to stopping the bill (though early help from Twin bought them the time
they needed) so they all move onto the lawn of the senator’s getaway retreat.
There are confrontations with the senator who assumes they will eventually get
bored and go away, while the students struggle with how long to stay as finals
are fast approaching and they want to graduate. A somewhat ominous subplot
eventually decides the issue, but that’s all I’ll say.
While most of the characters have their beliefs and cling to those, one character who you don’t think is a character at all at first learns that the Senator she so admires, and those who follow him, may not be operating with the best interest of all. Madison Pullman portrays Mary as an eager, starry-eyed fan, but those stars go away, and you sense her disappointment and confusion when she shows up on the lawn.
The performances are universally strong, all with unique and
quirky levels of humanity, and all finding a greater purpose working together
than apart. That also makes spotlighting some among the others is difficult –
suffice it to say that this is a true ensemble piece and all the actors are to
Brant Russell, a CCM Acting Professor, takes the reins as
director and keeps the action moving through all the early vignettes as he
takes full advantage of the two-level stage in the Cohen Family Studio Theatre.
It is apparent that he has an affinity for this piece and the message it is
sending to his students and their peers. Special kudos to CCM student Andrew
Wright for an exceptional job with the lighting that served the many
transitions and time shifts so well.
“Association of Controlled Dreamers” just runs
through this Saturday. Tickets are free but limited. For more information and
box office contact information, visit https://ccmpr.wordpress.com/2019/04/22/ccm-acting-presents-new-play-association-of-controlled-dreamers/