by Cheryl King · November 2, 2014
I saw one performance in the United Solo Festival this year, presented just one time, at 6 pm on Halloween. It was Sleep At Your Own Risk, a one-man comedy by Matthew Ethan Davis. He based it on his experiences when, as an adult, he began sleepwalking.
It was performed by the very funny Brendan Wahlers, on a stage set with a couple of cubes and a chair, and it brought the tiny audience in the Studio Theater to raucous laughter over and over again – no small feat. But Brendan is no small talent. A handsome hunk of a manly man, he tells us the story with sweet affability.
The audience is drawn in from the very beginning, in this well-paced and constructed story of the condition that practically destroyed the playwright’s life, and that of his live-in boyfriend, Dan.
The author makes good use of the popular music during the time of the play, weaving lyrics into the script in both subtle and comically obvious ways, and Mr. Wahlers carries off these absurdities with panache.
The development of the story is organic. And Billy Mitchell, the director, took advantage of the intimacy of the space. He let the story rest in the capable hands of the actor, and focused on the succinctness of the writing, Brendan’s comic chops, and the humanity of the story.
We are drawn into the dangers created by a sleepwalker, given scientific details about the management of the condition, and cracked up repeatedly by Brendan’s wide-eyed sincerity, as he copes with his dilemma.
In his description of the play on Indie Theater Now, Mr. Davis says, “The reason I wrote this play is that hardly anyone ever talks about adult sleepwalking, and all the research says that since there is no known cause, there is no cure (relaxing). It took me three years to find a therapist to work with me, having undergone every sleep study test imaginable. Out of all the sleep disorders, sleepwalking is the only one that is practically never even mentioned on any and all sleep disorder websites. It led me to feel so hopeless and isolated, it became a struggle just to keep on keeping on.”
One of the funniest moments in the play is when Brendan says, “I felt so isolated. And alone.” This use of language was a consistent factor in the writing, revealing a playfulness in usage that makes me want to read more of this author’s work.
Mr. Davis says, “It is my mission in life to get this play produced all over the world, to help people who might be where I was, and to raise consciousness about this unspoken issue.”
I am happy to say that I have a venue in NYC, and that I am therefore able to make the offer that I did immediately after the play. I asked Brendan and Matthew if they’d like to put the show up again at Stage Left Studio, and they said yes. Watch for it sometime this winter.