|Asleep On A Bicycle
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"This is a dream — I’m safe here," muses Linda, the comatose heroine of Tony Foster’s "Asleep on a Bicycle." Wishful thinking, alas. There’s a lot at stake as she confronts a bizarre parade of characters and conflicts from her waking life.
If the premise sounds familiar, the execution is anything but in David Fofi’s superb staging for Elephant Theatre Company. Exploring dream reality can become a license to indulge weirdness for its own sake.
Not here, fortunately. Funny, ironic and surprisingly moving, Foster’s smartly written new play follows a surreal but well-structured associative logic, through which seemingly incongruous elements gradually reveal their connections to Linda, played with sympathy and wit by Gina Garrison. A temp job had sent Linda on a bicycle delivery mission during which she fell asleep (hence the title); the resulting collision landed her in the hospital.
The myriad frustrations that led to Linda’s predicament take shape as she wanders through a stunning dreamscape dominated by scenic designer Joel Daavid’s immense overhanging tree of woven wicker canes, a foreboding image that gathers symbolic associations with family, fertility and life. A haunting score by the duo Lanfair Field adds to the atmosphere.
Foster has assembled an intriguing set of real and imaginary characters who embody her unfulfilled longings: weak-willed Jeff (Robert Foster, alternating with Nelson DelRosario), the hospital nurse (Deanna Cordano) with whom he may be having an affair, Linda’s suicidal genius brother (Ryan Radis, subbing for Josh Breeding), an alcoholic mother (Cheryl Huggins) and a perky nun (Patricia Rae) form the real-life contingent. More fanciful apparitions include a glamorous film star from the 1960s (Maya Parish), an ax murderess (Alexandra Hoover or Tara Norris) and the daughter she never had (Jade Dornfield).
The fragments all fit together, but their emotional impact and resonance depend on vivid, pitch-perfect performances that illuminate the rich complexities of everyday life in ways that a straightforward narrative never could.
-- Philip Brandes
American Radio Network
KCLA, KLAS, KPRO, KMAX
The Elephant Theatre Company at the Lillian Theatre has been batting a thousand percent this theatrical season with their latest production of Tony Foster's "Asleep On A Bicycle".
David Fofi does an incredible job of directing this impeccable cast in a story that observes some odd characters, I.E. A martini imbibing Mom who suddenly runs off to live with her best friend and ex nun.
Everything we see is set through Linda's (Gina Garrison), REM Cycles of her dying brain, that has occurred after falling asleep on her bicycle at the Gower Street Exit in Hollywood.
The set is a marvelous tree (probably the tree of live), done by Joel Daavid (also including his strong sound design). Penny Farthing (Alexandra Hoover) was contemplating divorce, and has murdered her husband. Her brother (Josh Breeding) has been dead a year. Opera Diva Giovanna (Maya Parish), commits suicide.
It is all there, the devil is in the details in the remarkably done ingenious black comedy, that is a must see.
GO... ASLEEP ON A BICYCLE is Tony Foster's humorous journey into a dreamscape world where nothing is as it seems. Linda (Gina Garrison) is lying asleep, but this doesn't stop her unconscious from roaming wild. In her dream state, she encounters a ravishingly beautiful Italian film star (Maya Parish), an axe-wielding murderess (Alexandra Hoover), her emotionally fragile brother (Josh Breeding), her alcoholic mother (Cheryl Huggins), who finds herself attracted to a lesbian nun (Patricia Rae), and a cheating husband (Robert Foster). Initially, these characters appear happenstance, without apparent significance, but Foster gradually and skillfully constructs a delicate, meaningful web of emotional, spiritual and psychological connections between and among them, constantly shifting between past and present, reality and fantasy. The writing is razor sharp and at times quite funny, although context and meaning sometimes become frustratingly obscure. The finale is clearly a case of one twist too many. The play is engaging and intelligently directed by David Fofi, who draws fine performances from a cast that also includes Jade Dornfeld and Deanna Cordano. The bedroom set piece by designer Joel Daavid, with a towering tree, is beautifully imagined and realized.
Playwright Tony Foster's work is reminiscent of Charles Mee at his most lucid moments; and director David Fofi not only gets the guy; he fiercely yet seamlessly conveys the writer's intentions without pandering to making it more accessible. Fofi guides an extraordinary cast, with particular notice to Huggins' acerbic mother and Dornfeld's absence of stereotypes as she ages from toddler through Goth teen to octogenarian. Fofi, Daavid, and their design team have contributed significantly to the ambiance of this fascinating piece of gossamer psychological drama, but the writing must be rewarded top honors. Foster reminds us it was Einstein who said life was like riding a bicycle: You have to keep pedaling to stay on. Foster pedals frantically; Foster pedals with wicked topical humor; Foster pedals with an uncanny ability to shift and linger through his poetic labyrinth of words and images. Luckily for us, he never falters, never misses in his ability to stay on and balance for the entire ride.
Review by Travis Michael Holder
The bicycle in question, symbolically, hangs upside down in set designer Joel Daavid’s hugely magnificent tree, whose trunk and barren branches dominate half the stage. Even though Linda and Jeff wander around in nightgown and boxers and a tee shirt, respectively, Louis Jacobs has designed some lovely costumes for Zadie and for the blood-spattered Penny Farthing, as well as the epitome of kookiness for the teen-aged Buttons.
It’s hard to tell if “Asleep on a Bicycle” is intended partially as farce, but as anyone who has ever slept through a dream/nightmare knows, there’s usually very little humor to be had in a dream. This one, however, offers some pithy ruminations about life and death and choices, and is well worth staying awake for.
Review by Cynthia Citron
Life is but a Dream, Or
Was It Something She Ate?
Have you ever listened to a friend relate a remembered dream? “And then, suddenly, I was walking down this deserted street in Rome, and there was Abraham Lincoln sitting at an outdoor café sipping an espresso…” Well, that’s sort of what Tony Foster’s new play, “Asleep on a Bicycle” is like. Rambling, disconnected, sometimes improbable, but still eerily fascinating.
You’ve attended plays where it was impossible to know at intermission whether it would end up being a meaningless heap of incidents or a tidy, intentional work of art where every element proved relevant and essential. In 'Asleep on a Bicycle,' playwright Tony Foster hurls information into dozens of directions, like spokes on a bike wheel. If left dangling in space, the play would be a mess; if he managed, somehow, to bring them all together, it would be a brilliant, memorable work. He managed to bring them all together.
The work shows; this production shines.
'Asleep on a Bicycle' is a smart lullaby written for Los Angeles. If produced in another town, it wouldn’t reach an audience half as well at points where Angelenos nod with understanding. It may affect your waking life and dream life, especially if your dreams are accompanied by the soundtrack, composed for the show by Lanfair Field. The music far exceeds original scores typically found in 99-seat theatre productions.
Review by Michael Kowrach
We’re treated to the inspired lunacy of Linda’s job as a temp (to perm) working at a literary agency and her struggles with the meaning of a six-figure screenplay deemed to be stroke material for males 18-35. And we are privy to some truly touching moments that explore what it means to be part of a family, moments which give us hope that there may be some greater truth waiting at dream’s end.
The show is beautifully designed, especially Joel Daavid’s set and lights and Lanfair Field’s lovely music. Gina Garrison has a lot to carry as Linda. Fortunately, she is allowed a few moments of quiet radiance...
It’s interesting how these characters enliven Linda’s dream far more than her family. There is no doubt more to be said on that subject, but I’ll leave that to the cat, Buttons.
Review by Stewart Skelton