To open its twelfth season, Impact Theatre follows up February’s production of Cartoon, Steven Yockey’s play about a bloody coup among Saturday morning cartoon characters, with another piece by the thirty-year-old playwright.
Sleepy is a short evening of creepy interlinked vignettes that lasts a little over an hour, but it feels like Yockey had to stretch it out to make it even that long. In the best of the pieces, John Terrell sees a double of himself kissing a beautiful woman (Jessica Kiely) and decides to ask her about the guy, setting off a string of mistaken identities that escalates into disaster. What makes this scene effective is its snappy, fast-paced round-robin of colliding first-person narrators.
Another decent section has Cartoon veteran Marissa Keltie reliving a gruesome, sickening childhood trauma. Keltie does an excellent severe-emotional-trauma stare that’s perfect for this scene, but what really makes it chilling is Seth Thygesen’s mild-mannered smile and kindly voice as the scary stranger she finds in the house in the middle of the night. There’s also an amusing, if seemingly pointless, bit in a Hotel Elevator of Doom with a spooky bellhop (Terrell) and a shiv-wielding dominatrix (Keltie).
But the first and last sections are lackluster, hackneyed exchanges that rely on thudding shock endings for impact. In the opening bit, a very young married couple — Gabriel A. Ross and Pamela Davis come off like fidgety, peevish teenagers — have one of those breakup conversations in which neither is listening to what the other is saying, which makes it difficult to tell when someone’s self-soliloquizing or actually addressing the other character.
Although Kiely has brash film-noir appeal as a mystery woman in the doppelganger section, she’s introverted to the point of being inert as a mumbling gal with an unexpressed crush in a final romantic-obsession bit with a sullen Keltie that goes nowhere — or rather loops right back to the play’s begining with a literal bang.
The twist non-endings make Sleepy seem like a gimmicky Twilight Zone knockoff, and that may be the idea. The six actors are left adrift in a netherworld of missed connections, implied menace, and very dim lighting.
Call it the Sleepy Zone.