Life Can Be “A Dream” at CCM’s Cohen Family Studio Theater

Review by Katrina Reynolds

As a theatre-goer, it’s always nice to see things you’ve not had to chance to experience in the past. While UC’s College-Conservatory of Music has gone very old-school in doing “A Dream Play”, a show written in the early 1900s by August Strindberg, it is very possible this will be a new experience for many Cincinnati area arts supporters.

This version of the Swedish text, translated by Henry G. Carlson, addresses many issues human beings face that can still be considered relatable today. Described as a “fantasy play in 14 scenes”, the audience is presented many different situations as dream sequences of sorts in one fluid tableau. Upon arriving on Earth to see if human complaints are justified, the daughter of the god Indra crosses paths with many a tormented character before enduring her own hardships as some sort of test or proof that being a human being is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Director Vincent DeGeorge and Assistant Director Debra Joan Najor impress in their blind casting of this trippy tale of woe. Representation is key when trying to spin a timeless fable of common grievances. Further, the staging of this show is very natural, but very much like a dance – a good choice to add to the delusional state of existence. Scenic Designer Abigail Heyd and Lighting Designer Kate Ingram are to be commended on an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple set and appropriate lighting choices. Both artists convey the changes in mood that come quickly in dreams through their choices. 

Show-stopper Lydia Noll (who is simply credited as “Officer”) is the absolute best thing about the show. Their transition from a pouty youngling to a dreamy-eyed person in love to an educated scholar who is still tortured by not knowing the answers in maths class is truly a tour-de-force. Mx. Noll is a mesmerizing performer with a bright future. Ava Panagopoulos (please don’t ever change your name – it’s wonderful!) as “Lawyer” takes us on a journey through the highs and lows of life, love, and responsibilities with natural story-telling talent. A particularly poignant scene which I found as relatable as though it had been written in the last 10 years occurs between “Lawyer” and “Daughter” (played by Sydni Charity Solomon). It is here that “Daughter” really begins to understand why humans complain and Mx. Solomon navigates this scene and all given dialogue expertly. 

Actors dancing at CCM
Cast of “A Dream Play” at CCM.
Actors in "A Dream Play" at CCM.
Cast of “A Dream Play” at CCM

In summary, “A Dream Play“ has a strong, talented cast of performers who clearly work hard to be a true ensemble. This is a wordy and surprisingly physical show with a steady pace and seamless transitions. While is it obvious many moving parts go into creating this ambience, the execution appears effortless – and that is great art.

“A Dream Play” (which is 100 mins with no intermission) runs through November 6. Tickets are going fast, so purchase yours here:

Katrina “Kat” Reynolds is a local performing artist and directress. She serves as the copy editor for Rob Bucher’s Behind The Curtain Cincinnati. Her company, Harley Quinn Studios, produces old-timey radio show content and provides the place “where the voices in your head come to play”.