You think you never sleep? Try staying awake for 13 years.
Bethany Palmer (Jeanine Serralles), the insomnia-ridden protagonist of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s new play, The Velvet Sky, has been awake since her son was born 13 years ago.
Beth’s life is a constant vigil in an attempt to save her son’s eyes from the Sandman (Rick Foucheux), whom, Bethany claims, steals children’s eyes to feed to his kin. Bethany’s husband, Warren (Will Gartshore), exacerbates Beth’s concerns by kidnapping their son, Andrew (Matthew Stadelmann), and taking him to New York City the night before his 13th birthday. Because Andy will be turning 13, he will no longer be considered a child, and his eyes will be out of the Sandman’s reach. Andrew runs away from his father once he gets to the city, while Bethany rushes to New York to find her baby. The play is one giant dreamlike chase.
Directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman, The Velvet Sky is a dream and a night terror all in one. A comedic vein runs through the show, yet there were many times when I caught myself completely immersed in the scariness of certain moments. A brilliantly written piece, The Velvet Sky mesmerizes you through its various horror scenes, and just as you begin to shift in your seat, it snaps to a bright and funny line. The transitions from scene to scene, which were depicted by creative lighting combinations, were incredibly impressive and helped establish the fast pace of the show.
The Velvet Sky’s cast spills over with talent, evident from the very first scene. Warren (Gartshore) barges into his house chewing gum in the most annoying way possible, establishing a hatred for him from the very second he walks onto the stage. Bethany (Serralles) exaggerates the protective mother role, and the effect on her son is evident when we meet Andrew-he wears dinosaur pajama pants with a multi-colored sweater that his mother obviously knit. Stadelmann does an amazing job portraying 13-year-old Andy. I found myself referring to the program at the end of the show to find out how old he actually was (much older than 13).
Our villain, the Sandman (Foucheux), is hidden throughout the play as different people Andrew meets. One scene in particular occurs in a movie theatre, and the Sandman presents himself as a pedophile sitting behind Andy. I felt sick watching Foucheux move on stage; he was a villain everyone in the audience can relate to. He was not just a storybook character. Aguirre-Sacasa takes a children’s fairytale and puts it into our world, making a bedtime story character frightening.
The Velvet Sky is hypnotizing. A creative and exciting piece, the production’s many aspects – cast, script, direction, lighting, set – combine for an edgy and entertaining piece. You definitely can’t fall asleep at this one.
The Velvet Sky is running at The Woolly Mammoth through March 5. For tickets call (202) 393-3939 or visit www.woollymammoth.net.