Igloo, the Theatrical Group

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .

–from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

It’s not so surprising, I suppose, that Paul Peditto’s Dreamscape of the Falcon should bring this poem to mind. It’s an obvious thought association. I mean, how many references to falcons can you think of? Falcon Crest. The Atlanta Falcons. What else?

But there actually is a connection between the play and Yeats’s poem. The image of disintegration, of loss of control, reflects the content of Dreamscape, which is about a young journalist named Falcon who becomes increasingly disoriented as he grieves for a dead girlfriend. As he sinks deeper into his despair, his innocence is submerged beneath a dark, destructive vision focused on death.

“The Second Coming” also applies to the form of Dreamscape. Like the falcon in Yeats’s poem, this play seems to soar higher and higher in its experimentation, drifting ever farther from the control of the playwright.

And sure enough, things fall apart.

But until that happens, Peditto succeeds in creating an eerie, disturbing world inhabited by an intriguing character whose turmoil and inner contradictions make for some interesting theater.

Peditto calls his work a dreamscape for a good reason. Mood and setting shift abruptly, as in a dream. Personalities change radically, the chronology is fractured, and there’s a feeling throughout the play that anything can happen.

The play begins realistically, with Sidney, an uptight nerd who works in a news bureau, and his wife arriving at Falcon’s unlocked apartment, intent on luring him back to his job. Falcon, played by the playwright’s brother, Chris Peditto, is still grieving for his girlfriend, Mary Rose, who was killed recently in a car crash. Large photos of her hang on the wall, and when Falcon returns to the apartment, carrying groceries, it’s obvious he is hiding his grief beneath a veneer of forced hilarity. He is wearing a tuxedo, and has his hair shaped to resemble a falcon’s crest. He holds a set of toy teeth in his hand and chatters them in Sidney’s face, and rejects the invitation to return to work at the news bureau.

Then, in the first and most jarring mood shift, Sidney changes from a nerd in horn-rimmed glasses to a demonic figure who is taunting Falcon to pick up a woman on the streets of Jerusalem, where the two of them used to work in the Mideast bureau. Beau O’Reilly achieves a shocking transformation. His hair, formerly slicked back tightly against his head, suddenly flows around his face, which resembles Mick Jagger’s, with oversize features seemingly made of rubber, capable of stretching into frightening leers and grimaces. With his transfiguration, O’Reilly creates the unmistakable feel of a dream, or a nightmare, which lingers throughout the rest of the play.

Falcon strikes up a conversation with a woman from California who thinks “Arabs belong in cages like the other dogs the Israelis have rounded up around here.” Falcon lures her into the woods, binds her up with adhesive tape, and does something to her he later regrets, although what he does is not quite clear.

After more taunts from the demonic Sidney, Falcon suddenly encounters a mysterious woman named Cassy, who says she’s perched on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, ready to jump. (This is a dream, remember?) She resembles his deceased girlfriend, and he takes her home. Back in his apartment, the tone shifts again. The dream seems to be over. They drink beer and make small talk. She tries on some of the dead girlfriend’s clothes. They seem familiar with each other, as though they’ve just made love, and she even seems a little jealous about other lovers he has had.

But just when the action starts to resemble mundane reality, Cassy brings out the handcuffs, the leather mask, and the other bondage paraphernalia Falcon has stashed into a box, and with the equipment she helps Falcon forget his misery — forever.

Is it real or is it more dreamscape? It’s hard to tell. This is when the Falcon seems to get away from the falconer, and complete anarchy is loosed upon the play. But even though the playwright doesn’t bring his idea home to roost, he still creates a mysterious, disturbing mood that persists to the end.

Then again, maybe it’s the actors who are primarily responsible for creating that mood. Chris Peditto endows the Falcon with the exuberance of a teenager and the angst of a world-weary old man, creating a character whose inner turbulence sustains the play’s tension. Somehow, Peditto shifts gears smoothly. One minute he’s playful and sarcastic; the next minute, he’s somber, delivering a soliloquy about a tour he took of the stations of the cross: “You know, in the deepest part of your heart, that you’re closing in on Golgotha. This was, in fact, the very route Christ took under the cross. . . . Through the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher toward the tomb of sweet Jesus. Spanish women are wailing as they come out. Uncontrollable. Now it’s your turn . . .”

Maria Marano is both mysterious and malevolent as Cassy, and Val Olney portrays a variety of women, giving an especially good performance as Rita, the California girl Falcon seduces in the woods.

Director Clive Greville has orchestrated Dreamscape with intelligence and flair, overcoming the limitations of a cramped playing space and rudimentary props. His acting, however, is another matter. He and Johnathan Webster perform a brief curtain raiser by Luigi Pirandello called The Man With the Flower in His Mouth, about a man who is dying of cancer. Greville, in an attempt to project the man’s anguish, creates a character who merely appears deranged. His character is supposed to be in the grip of that intense concentration that imminent death brings. He is consumed by mundane observations — the way a clerk wraps a package, the way a bolt of silk shimmers in a shop window — and he is intent on describing these details to a hapless commuter he corners.

Yet, Greville delivers these observations with such relentless frenzy that the meaning of the words disappears beneath the histrionics. Although the Pirandello piece, in contrast to the play it precedes, takes place in the harsh glare of reality, Greville turns it into a fantastic, almost surreal demonstration of terror, making it a quick snooze before the dreaming begins.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Edward Donahue.