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Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep

"Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep"
Written and directed by Raymond J. Barry
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave. (East Village)
March 31 to April 24
Reviewed April 3, 2011 by Larry Litt

Can personal Romantic Love conquer all the world's troubles, greed and challenges? Or does it replace caring for humanity? All fulfilling, soulful love for another human being, along with love of family and a small group, often replaces love of humanity, the moral and ethical kind of love for one's fellow travelers on this often sad plane of temporary existence. Fascistic Narcissistic Love versus Communal Love. Is there any hope for our sophisticated society? Is the ‘personal’ just personal and not political at all?

Playwright, director, actor Raymond J. Barry assaults these questions in his fast moving screed against the corporate machine, "Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep." Three adults with intensely committed lives converge on two benches in a public park. They are surrounded by the distant sounds of bombs which awaken them from their sheltered confessional reveries.

Tacey Adams and Raymond J. Barry.
Photo by Lee Wexler.
Tacey Adams and Joseph Culp.
Photo by Lee Wexler.
Tacey Adams, Joseph Culp and Raymond J. Barry. Photo by Lee Wexler.


We meet Paul (Joseph Culp), a middle aged, frenetically high strung, paranoid, delusional corporate warrior ranting at his long time wife Erica (Tacey Adams). We’re meeting a man on the verge of a breakdown. Joseph Culp brilliantly portrays his denied guilt over forcing his only son into a war engaged military with disastrous results. "He was patriotic, like me," declares Paul, "and patriotism often has a high price."

For Tacey Adams' Erica, patriotism isn't enough of reason to quell the heart breaking pain for her lost son. She is emotionally reviled by Paul's fraudulent claim to war heroism. "You used your patriotic lies to push our son, my only son, into battle," Erica cries, "and now I’ve lost him forever. I’ll never forgive you."

Tacey Adams, Joseph Culp and Raymond J. Barry.
Photo by Lee Wexler.

The war between Erica and Paul would be good enough as a play but in the brilliant writing of Raymond J. Barry we need another element, a character who mixes them up, dragging them kicking and screaming into self awareness.

Enter Edward, smoothly played by Barry himself, an insider, like Paul and Erica, into the secret life of global corporations. Edward's goal is to leave corporate America and while fleeing destroy Erica and Paul’s unhappy relationship. He offers Erica love as an alternative meanwhile driving Paul to the brink of hysterical madness.

Barry's play isn't the usual romantic triangle of personal frustration meets potential emotional renewal. It digs deeply into the motivations of corporate financial executives and their deep yearning for Empire, with military support of course. It takes turns and twists with national needs and pride. It reveals strategies of devious manipulation while offering simplistic solutions.

This is a play for adults who seek clean direct dramatic and comedic writing about complex issues for our escapist world. I couldn’t ask for more.

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