Nightmares and Nightcaps desperately can't figure itself out | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Nightmares and Nightcaps desperately can't figure itself out

Based on stories by John Collier, the series of vignettes attempts to be light and dark at once.


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The narrator's study has a hatchet hanging from a nail on the wall next to the kitchen door. Hardly any narrator needs a hatchet. Then again, hardly any play needs a narrator. It's lucky for Kevin Webb that he gets to spend so much of his night in violet silk pajamas, heaping cigarettes into a crammed ashtray as a series of frothy vignettes about diabolism and henpecked husbands plays out before him. He pretends to have found these incidents collected 'tween the huge morocco boards of an antique folio cradled in his lap. The truth is, many of John Collier's stories, on which these vignettes are based, were originally published in the New Yorker, light helpings of structurally sound wartime escapism for the home front that Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling read and refashioned into important TV. The scenes of "macabre fantasy" fudged together here in this Black Button Eyes production attempt to be light and dark simultaneously, but what darkness there is feels spoofy, and the biggest laugh of the night is awarded to a puppet. The hatchet is used to assault someone, I forget who. It all happened so slowly.

I want there to be a national ban on fake British accents. I wish I could instate one retroactively on the members of this cast. Pretty much the only actor here who would have a clean record under my new regime is Caitlin Jackson, who's a standout powerhouse in her brief role as a nagging wife—Collier's offensive pet stereotype—before she’s swallowed by a bog monster.   v

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