One Eye Open | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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ONE EYE OPEN, Billy Goat Experiment, at Heartland Studio Theater. A quarter century ago the Body Politic's Dream Theatre allowed audience members to have their dreams acted out. If the performances were unlike the dreams, however, the contributors were too polite to show their disappointment.

The same problem crops up a generation later with the Billy Goat Experiment's tangled attempt to evoke the subtexts of dreams in an imaginary investigation. Playwrights Catherine Jarboe and Connor Kalista posit a scientist--to whom dreams are a "complex recipe" by which the mind tries "to lick the psychic plate clear"--who experiments on a masked patient. Electrodes connect the sleeper to the characters in his dreams. Clad in blue lab smocks, they enact a feverish, obsessive story about looking for an apartment, moving in, and coping with intimidatingly strange new surroundings. At will the doctor alters the dream by changing the patient's stimuli.

If ever incoherence gets a free pass it's in dream sequences. But often they don't touch us either, perhaps because dreams mean everything to the dreamer and little to anyone else but a shrink. A great deal of discipline went into this enterprise: John Paine sits in darkness for 90 minutes while six actors swirl around him. Toward what end doesn't seem to matter. The latest research dismisses dreams as the body's way of dumping mental garbage before the day begins. Sadly, that theory fits this play all too well.

--Lawrence Bommer

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