We are in Vice President Mike Pence’s office. The lights are dim, and the room is filled with haze. Pence and his assistant, Gary, are discussing an upcoming speech that the vice president must present to a group of bereaved mothers who lost their sons to gun violence. Pence approaches his assistant seductively, and asks that he handle the details of the speech. Gary feels unsure about taking on such a task, creating the language to share with these women when it should be the vice president. Pence shrugs that off, and simply responds:
“We get our hands dirty so the hands of the American Public stay clean.”
Then, just when the audience thinks they know where this sex dream is going to go, we have a wild dance break.
First Floor Theater presents World Premiere of Mike Pence Sex Dream
Dan Giles’ play takes place in the wake of the 2016 election, when newly married couple Gary (Scott Shimizu) and Ben (Collin Quinn Rice) are trying to figure out how to make things work in this new regime. Gary wants to rise through the ranks of his corporate advertising firm, and willing to stop and nothing to do so. When the opportunity comes about for him to build a partnership with a corrupt bacon company, he takes the account (against Ben’s wishes), along with a tempting offer from the client, Tom (Gage Wallace). What follows is a series of twists and turns that occur alongside a number of sex dreams, all responding to the question: What happens when you get in bed with pigs?
Helmed by First Floor Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel, the artistic team embraces Giles’ play about worlds colliding, and the blurring lines between fantasy and reality. Scenic Designer William Boles surrounds the intimate space with mirrors, touched up in a way that distort reflections ever so slightly – which are especially effective in the moments of sexual fantasies.
When the lights go down at the top of the play, Lighting Designer Claire Chrzan fills the room with flashing color, and Sound Designer and Composer Eric Backus blasts pop music. Haze floats into the space, and especially with the reflection of lights in the mirrors, it’s hard to know if we are in a play or concert. Based on the cheers that erupted from this Opening Night audience, this writer is willing to guess that the room was excited about the environment regardless. Suddenly Mike Pence (Wallace, with brilliant dead-pan humor) comes on stage, wearing nothing more than white underwear, and checks out his reflection in the mirror. The audience is immediately hit with the first sex dream of the night, and with that, we know this wild play has begun.
Following that first scene the lights become calmer, and a kitchen island comes out to introduce the audience to the first scene in Gary and Ben’s home, showing us a marriage grounded in reality. A little while later we are hit with another sex dream, this time featuring Rice in the role of the vice president, and a larger-than-life dance break choreographed by Breon Arzell that elicited further cheers from the audience. Pimental masterfully blends the worlds of heightened fantasy and realism, creating a piece that is thrilling, yet also frighteningly recognizable to an audience currently living in this current political moment.
Moments of Honesty
As the title would suggest, Giles’ play is certainly full of over-the-top humor; however, Pimental and his ensemble also make for some revealing moments of honesty within the relationships.
One such moment occurs earlier in the piece, when Gary asks Ben for permission to have a late-night meeting with Tom about the bacon account. Ben has already made clear their reservations about Gary taking on this project, and their disgust with the company’s treatment of animals. However, the couple shares a moment of trust, and Ben reminds Gary that they still love him even if they do not agree with their husband’s actions. We are touched, taking in this couple that is simply trying to make their marriage work in the face of so many political challenges.
A frightening yet thrilling production full of dark humor makes Mike Pence Sex Dream one that this writer feels should not be missed.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Scott Shimizu — Gary
Collin Quinn Rice — Ben
Gage Wallace — Tom
Hutch Pimental - Director
William Boles — Scenic Design
Claire Chrzan — Lighting Design
Uriel Gomez — Costume Design
Erin Nicole Gautille — Properties Design
Eric Backus — Sound Design
Claire Stone — Special Effects Assistant
Kayla Menz — Stage Management
Micah Figueroa — Violence and Intimacy Design
Breon Arzell — Choreography
Carol Ann Tan — Dramaturg
Caitlin McCarthy — Production Management
Jacob Mulcahy — Technical Direction
Catherine Miller — Casting Direction
Kendall Reasons — Assistant Stage Management
Running through March 16, 2019
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
Running Time: 80 minutes, without intermission
The Den Theatre
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.