Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Life Is a Dream
The Cutting Ball Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of Object Lessons and Richard's reviews of The Nance and Monstress

Matthew Hannon and Asher Sinaiko
The Cutting Ball Theater, known for their experimental theatre productions, are presenting Pedro Calderón de la Barca's 17th century classic Life Is a Dream. It was first published in 1635 and is the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama. It is usually called a "philosophical drama" and is rarely performed today because it is often cold and mechanical.

This is the story of Segismundo, a Prince of Poland who has been imprisoned in a tower by his father following a prophecy by an oracle that the prince would bring disaster to the country and death to the King. The prince is briefly freed and goes on a rampage and then is quickly put back into jail. The prince is persuaded that his momentary freedom was all a dream.

Andrew Saito's new adaptation runs just 75 minutes and he has cut out the long speeches from the original classic and inserted some modern day speeches into the production.

The cast enters the performance dressed mostly in boxer shorts and undershirts and proceed to put on their modern day costumes before the audience. They are seated on four-tiered wooden bleacher seats one would see at a basketball game. They of course face the audience.

During the performance in the intimate theatre they run up and down these wooden planks shouting at each other. Rather than fight with swords, they fight with kazoos. Each performer is equipped with a kazoo and they even play melodies through the metal instruments. There is also Barry Despenza who plays drums and percussion off to the side and performs different beats throughout the performance.

Life is a Dream still has the basic plotline and there is added significance by casting David Sinaiko and his son Asher Sinaiko as the prince. Both perform excellently in this contemporary version of the drama. The rest of the cast, Sango Tajima, Michael Wayne Turner III, Peter Warden, Samantha Behr, Matthew Hannon and Grace Ng, are energetically competent in their respective roles. Paige Rogers' direction is fast paced and perceptive.

Life Is a Dream plays through November 1, 2015, at the Cutting Ball Theater, Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco For tickets call 415-525-1205 or visit

Photo: Fiona McDougall, OneWorldPhoto

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