In Play Reviews

“Is it now?” Guy (Michael O’Connell) asks. He is sprawled, half-dressed, in front of a wheelchair in a room that is empty save for some large boxes at the side of the stage. “I thought I had more time.” Lights out.

Michael O’Connell as Guy in Wakey Wakey at Portland Playhouse. Photo by Brud Giles.

The next time we see Guy, he is dressed and in the wheelchair, looking a bit confused, but not lacking for words. Will Eno‘s 2017 play Wakey Wakey, directed by Gretchen Corbett at Portland Playhouse, is a play about ideas rather than action.

Much as Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot is a monologue, Eno’s play is an elegy to Guy delivered by Guy–or as he puts it, “an elegy for the eulogist”.

A Hee-Haw moment in Wakey Wakey at Portland Playhouse. Photo by Brud Giles.

“I wrote Wakey Wakey,” says the playwright, “mainly because of some great people in my life who are no longer with us anymore….” The result is a profoundly felt meditation about life, death, and The Meaning Of It All. Eno dug deep, as does O’Connell, as they explore “the big secret we all share”. There is time for surprise, denial, and the other stages of grief, and even humor.

The character Guy throws out some pithy one-liners–little observations he has written on notecards. He observes, and reminisces on a life lived–and the things that he shares will intrigue and surprise the audience.

Lisa (Nikki Weaver) appears late in the play. Is she a caregiver? Friend? Healer? Guide? In this deeply humanist, existential play, there is much left to individual interpretation.

Wakey Wakey is not a usual play. It works outside the average theatre-goer’s comfort zone, as seen by the nervous giggles of several in the audience during Guy’s long and thoughtful pauses. In the role of Guy, or Everyman if you will, O’Connell expertly conveys a vast range of human emotion.

Wakey Wakey continues its run at Portland Playhouse through October 21.

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  • Linda Eguchi says:

    This feels to me like a very accurate analysis and assessment, Judy. A man in hospice ruminating on it “all.” The Waiting for Godot reference came to me also. And, like some other audience members, I too, felt moments of discomfort. I think they were not due to the subject matter but because he still seemed so uncertain about his own take on “it all.”

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