Being a part of an immersive theater production is one experience, but having an aerialist dangle less than five feet from your head (while the silks that the aerialist hangs from brush your shoulders), is another. And it’s the latter that takes place in Slumber, the high-style but low-substance production in performances at the House of Yes.
The first full-length, live production from the circus and theatrical production company Hideaway, Slumber walks the tightrope of balancing style and substance, and, unlike its skilled and talented cast, it is unable to maintain the necessary equilibrium.
Featuring a group of aerialists, contortionists and otherwise stunningly flexible and athletic performers, Slumber presents the story of a group of circus performers who embark on a night out that unexpectedly evolves into a horrifyingly violent killing spree. A fusion of dance, theater and circus, it is entertaining – as long as one or more of the cast members is suspended above the stage. The show’s story, which is much weaker than its effects, follows Lee Hubilla, the overlooked outcast of the group who is excluded from pre-clubbing selfies and finds an unexpected outlet for her anger.
The bursts of plot are interspersed with performances including a Chinese pole and aerial silks, which are more entertaining than the story. Hubilla’s killing spree is never explained, aside from an angry outburst about being left out of her friend’s photos. She attempts to engage the audience, inviting one person onstage to help her hide the body of her first victim and participating in some awkward emcee talk at the beginning of the second act, but she never becomes a fully-formed character, so her motivation can’t be supported or judged.
Presented with a decidedly informal aesthetic, Slumber’s cast members are decked out in denim cutoffs, flannel shirts and ankle boots. The dialogue, which is minimal, to say the least, is typical millennial-speak. The real strength of the production comes from the hip-hop choreography and stunts, which are undeniably impressive. Anya Sapozhnikova and Melissa Aguerre, who perform a duet on a hoop (after snorting cocaine off of Hubilla’s back) are a highlight of the evening, as is Olga Karmansky’s contortion performance, which grotesquely resembles her coming back to life after being stabbed.
While the plot of Slumber is minimal, there was one aspect of it that was decidedly troubling. When Hubilla is seduced by Joren Dawson, the encounter was clearly not consensual. She looked terrified during her encounter with him, and the horror of that experience, which could have been a motivating factor in the killing spree that follow, is never addressed.
Slumber has the potential to provide an exciting look into the darkest desires of our subconscious. What do we dream, and what do our dreams say about us? But it’s never clear what it it wants to be. A musical? A play? A hipster take on Cirque du Soleil? Its attempt at a story is a detriment to the show, which should either fully develop the plot and characterization or not have any at all.