What happens when human imagination runs dry? When the concept of artistic expression and creativity is stifled in a world that has become overwhelmed with frustration, anger, and despair? That is the kind of future that Iris Dauterman portends in her original work, Sing To Me Now, currently playing at Rorschach Theatre.
Callie (Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry) is the last of the nine muses. She struggles under the ever-mounting backlog of pleas for inspiration and has resorted to recycling old and forgotten ideas. With the help of her new intern, Yankee, and her friend and confidant, Mo (Morpheus, God of Dreams), Callie realizes that her block stems from a deeper pain of the loss of her sisters and crushing loneliness.
Jenny McConnell Frederick directs this production, which exists in a world of Greek mythology in modern times. Author Dauterman has a unique, contemporary voice, which is complemented by her breadth of knowledge of literary history and hints of classical style.
The set, designed by Swedian Lie, includes Callie’s “office,” complete with a filing cabinet and desk stacked with books and papers that overflow onto the floor. The office is on an upstage platform with a few stairs that then lead down to a stream flowing through the center of the stage and disappearing offstage.
The stream runs across the doorway to Mo’s home and is full of the dreams, which Callie uses as a resource to answer her nonstop flow of letters. The illusion of water is made mostly from coloring and lighting but has sections of actual water that the actors can scoop into jars. With the help of sound and light design (by Gordon Nimmo-Smith and Sarah Tundermann respectively) the effect of “capturing” the memories from the water is quite effective and charmingly magical.
Chloe Mikala plays the overwhelmed Callie. Mikala is captivating as the dry-well of inspiration, struggling to fulfill the creative needs of mankind. She is strong, stubborn, and determined but has an underlying pain that she consistently tries to ignore.
Tori Boutin plays her newly hired intern, Yankee. Boutin is young and energetic, countering Callie’s heavy, “weight of the world” demeanor.
And Mo is played by Erik Harrison, who has the charm and demeanor one would expect of a Greek god. Harrison and Boutin have a fun chemistry that enhances their characters’ obvious attraction.
The two are genuine friends to Callie, each helping in their own way, discovering early on that Callie’s workload is not the only cause of her trouble–she also simply does not sleep. But with the newfound comfort of Yankee covering for her, Callie decides to finally take a break.
While Callie rests, Yankee searches the stream for more material and happens to capture Callie’s dream. Mo and Yankee seize upon the opportunity to try to better know what is truly troubling Callie, and quickly discover that her dreams are dominated by scenes of her sisters and how she lost them. The more Callie sleeps, the more Yankee and Mo delve into her past and understand that the loss of Callie’s sisters left her feeling eternally alone and drowning under the weight of responsibility to fulfill the work that the nine sisters used to share.
Adding to Callie’s distress is the relationship with her mother, Mnemosyne (Cam Magee), The Goddess of Memory. Callie strives to ignore her loss, but Mnemosyne lives in a constant state of recollections of past moments and experiences. Over and over again, Callie speaks with her mother, hoping for her to be in the present moment; to be a source of comfort and support. But instead, their conversations always dwell on her sisters and everything she is trying to forget.
Magee and Mikala have many moving scenes and their relationship is reminiscent of a daughter dealing with the heartache and disappointment of a mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Mikala carries her anguish in her body and the disappointment she feels when her mother, yet again, cannot be the support she needs is heart-wrenching to watch.
Rorschach Theatre’s production of Sing To Me Now is an exquisite play that journeys through the complicated need to make art and inspire beauty, illustrating the crippling effect of loss and love on the creative process, and amplifying that experience through an immortal character, who can never hope for their death to escape it.
Dauterman is quoted, speaking of her work’s relevance:
“I wrote Sing To Me Now during a time when I was asking myself […] about the validity of making art in a world that feels increasingly broken. […] It is my hope that the play will provide […] a path through the darkness for anyone else who is struggling with similar feelings of disillusionment.”
In this, Dauterman is entirely successful. Sing To Me Now is a beautiful distraction that exemplifies emotional wounds we can all relate to but with a new story that masks the links to reality in a world of mythology and legend, allowing the audience to forget the outside world and simply feel. A nearly impossible state to achieve, and a magical place to be.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Sing to Me Now plays through November 18, 2018, at Rorschach Theatre at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. For tickets, call 202.399.7993 ext. 2, or purchase them online.
Set Design Swedian Lie, Costume Design Debra Kim Sivigny, Lighting Design Sarah Tundermann, Sound Design Gordon Nimmo-Smith, Properties Design Rachael Knoblauch, Stage Manager Talisman