Nov 16 to 26, 2011
Listen to my live review of Any Night on this morning’s Calgary Eyeopener
The latest play from the Dual Minds duo of Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn takes on the vulnerable and sometimes disturbed state of sleep and asks us to imagine what it would be like to be watched as we slumbered, either aware of the prying eyes or ignorant to the fact. Any Night is a creepy love story/thriller inspired by true stories that plays more like a contemporary film than a traditional stage play.
This is fitting because in addition to the show’s critical runs Off Broadway, Toronto and Vancouver, the play is in the early stages of being made into a film with the assistance of Movie Central and BC Film. This kind of attention though is nothing new for the playwrights who have already amassed a long list of accolades including the Alberta Theatre Projects Emerging Artist Scholarship and the protégé award of The Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s most prestigious theatre awards.
The story opens with Anna, played by Hahn, who moves into a basement apartment after breaking up with her clingy and stalker-like boyfriend. Her upstairs neighbour Patrick, played by Arnold, is a nerdy, tech savvy seemingly sweet guy who takes an immediate interest in her and goes above and beyond to make Anna feel comfortable in her new home. But the domestic bliss is shattered right on the first night as Anna suffers violent night terrors and a disturbing sleepwalking episode. Amazingly though, as if knowing exactly what she needs, Patrick comes to her rescue and makes light of the situation. Anna feels comfortable enough to tell him about her long history of sleep disorders and lets on that she’s even spent time in hospital under observation to try to help diagnose and cure the condition. Patrick doesn’t seems phased by this at all and peruses her until a romance blooms between them. But something isn’t quite right. Anna starts to sense that maybe she knows Patrick from somewhere and that maybe she’s being watched. The stress of all of this makes her nightly problems even worse and her paranoia senses overload until the situation explodes and she finally exposes what Patrick is really up to.
Without giving away all the plot twists and turns (it is a thriller after all) it’s interesting to note the real life events that inspired the play. The first story that motivated the playwrights was the real-life account of Kenneth Parks, who made legal history 1987 when he got up in the middle of the night, drove to his in-laws, murdered his mother-in-law, then woke up on drive home with blood all over him and a knife in his hand. Parks was found not guilty due to sleepwalking. The second story they looked at was about a man who used hidden cameras spy on the young woman living in the basement apartment of his home. The playwrights say they were fascinated by these stories and even visited sleep labs to learn more about night terrors and sleepwalking and to get a handle on just how much we don’t know about our sleep world.
The result is a very unique and extremely unusual play. Not just because of the subject matter, which is interesting in itself, but mostly because of the way the story is told. There are flashbacks and dream sequences and repetitive speeches that give a kind of otherworldly trance-like feel to a lot of the action evocative of films like Memento or David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. We’re given answers to questions we don’t even know to ask yet and frankly the audience spends a lot of the play stuck between confusion about what’s going on and interested determination to figure things out. The reason we hang in there, is that Arnold and Hahn’s writing is really clean, their acting is compelling and Ron Jenkins’ direction makes great use of a small stage and just a few props.
The only flaw for me, and it’s a minor one, is that I felt the play was just a tad too long. Any Night is a one-act 80 minute show, which is good because the narrative plays stronger here without interruption. But some scenes verged towards the ponderous, the karaoke scene in particular, and the whole thing could have benefitted from about a 10 minute edit or so. A small quibble however and certainly nothing that takes away from the overall experience of this creative and well-crafted production.
For the guys – A psychological thriller with some very cool sleep science thrown in. SEE IT
For the girls – Your empathy/sympathy with Anna will leave you both suffocated and angry. SEE IT
For the occasional theatre audience – Non-linear storytelling and a plot that’s hard to follow. SKIP IT
For the theatre junkie – It’s a play you will still be thinking about the next day. SEE IT