The dreamer examines his pillow, Shortbridge Theatre Troupe, at New Harrison Street Galleries Studio Theatre. The predominant message in John Patrick Shanley’s early plays is that one can never be too scared, stubborn, or stupid to fall in love, marry, and live happily ever after. The characters in The Dreamer Examines His Pillow speak in a medley of poetry, profanity, and pop-science jargon that reflects the chaos into which eros has cast them–not just the inert young Tommy and lovesick teenager Donna but her boho father. In Shanley’s universe, age does not guarantee wisdom. Usually the resulting confusion is played as giddy romantic farce or as an exploration of modern relationships.

But the actors portraying the young pilgrims in this production are barely older than their characters–and in the case of Donna’s dad, the actor is a good two decades too young for the part. So the frustrations of maintaining one’s independence while in the throes of the hormonal imperative are still vivid enough to be taken very seriously. Andy Schoen’s and Alexandra Pochron’s line readings all but shimmer with anger and immediacy, and youthful director Mark Macoun has instructed Benjamin Myers to deliver a hallelujah chorus of a performance as Dad, a portrayal so over-the-top that we hardly care that it has little if anything to do with the character as written. There might be more faithful interpretations of Shanley’s popular play, but the Shortbridge Theatre Troupe’s version is certainly one of the most original.

–Mary Shen Barnidge