Will Eno’s “Wakey, Wakey” follows one man’s humorous and unsentimental reflection on life as he prepares to exit it.
The play also functions as a bittersweet farewell to Durham’s beloved Manbites Dog Theater Company, closing after 31 seasons.
In the play, the lights come up on a man (Guy) lying face down on the floor among some packing boxes. He suddenly awakes, asking, “Is it now? I thought I had more time.”
He shortly reappears in a wheelchair, announcing to the audience, “This isn’t what I had planned.” He then nervously shuffles through some prepared note cards, fumbles with a remote to project various videos and wheels around making random reflections about the joys and wonders of life.
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Throughout it all, he uneasily watches for the arrival of someone. Eventually a woman (Lisa) appears, smiling and efficient, who says she’s there to help him.
Here's our take.
It doesn’t take long to realize that what seems to be taking place in a rest home with a resident and a staff member is also a metaphor for the way any of us might take stock of life as we prepare for death. Eno gives Guy many clever, insightful observations that can induce big smiles and a few pangs.
Although this is not the playwright’s best work, it’s a perfect way to say goodbye to an institution that has given its audience so much to ponder about life.
It’s entirely appropriate that director Jeff Storer has chosen a cast of longtime favorites at Manbites. Derrick Ivey’s Guy has an impressive range of expression, from embarrassment and bravado to fear and confusion. His stream-of-consciousness monologue, taking up more than half of the 75-minute one-act play, seems an impossible task that he dispatches with consummate skill.
Although Lisa is a more limited role, Lakiesha Coffey makes her intriguing otherworldly, imbuing her with beaming personality and calm authority.
Go to celebrate Manbites’ three decades of endeavors, to see fine actors at work and to pause for reflection on the positive things in life.
What: “Wakey, Wakey”
Where: Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham
When: 8:15 p.m. May 23-26, 30-31, June 2, 6-9; 2 p.m. May 27, June 3, 10; 7:30 p.m. June 1 (special event with performance TBA)
Info: 919-682-3343 or manbitesdogtheater.org