Not Only Sleeping, Curious Theatre Branch, at the Lunar Cabaret. A sexually impotent lover, an unsuccessful writer, and an insufferable neurotic, Flagg is a failure in all aspects of life. This may be playwright Beau O’Reilly’s most tragic character to date, a man whose loose grip on reality becomes even more tenuous when his lover leaves him. It’s certainly one of O’Reilly’s most memorable performances; as Flagg, he does almost everything in his power to make his character repellent. Yet in both writing and performance O’Reilly can’t help but make the narcissistic, self-loathing Flagg sympathetic: he’s more to be pitied than despised.
In the hands of director Hallie Gordon, O’Reilly’s meditation on love, writing, and sex becomes even more of an epiphany. Gordon gave Jenny Magnus’s The Lucky Ones a tight, seamless staging at last year’s Rhinoceros Theater Festival but goes in the opposite direction here, giving the work a discordant feel, pushing and pulling her cast in multiple directions and breaking down the barriers between Flagg’s real and imagined worlds. As his friends and neighbors, the rest of the cast add dimensions to characters who might otherwise seem tangential; Kathleen Powers is especially good as the downtrodden ex-lover. If there’s a bone to pick, it’s that the script is irresolute. But as a portrait of a man coming to terms with his own grief and loss, Not Only Sleeping is riveting.