“Everything symbolizes Somethingsays one character to another during a scene in Steve Yockey sleeping giant– and it’s hard not to see this as both a thesis statement and a bit of a challenge. Throughout the tight 80-minute runtime of Yockey’s new play, individual scenes build on each other while initially seeming disconnected, with a mysterious phenomenon acting as a bridge between them. Each of these scenes draws on an approach to religion and groupthink that might be playfully sacrilegious and deliberately elusive about our need to find meaning in a world that’s changing faster than we can keep up.
For Salt Lake Acting SocietyIn the current production of , four actors play various roles in a tale that begins with a young couple in a lakeside home, where Ryan’s (Robert Scott Smith)’s elaborate marriage proposal to Alex (Lily Hye Soo Dixon ) could also have awakened a … Something from the bottom of the lake. Later, friends Barbara (Cassandra Stokes-Wylie) and Maggie (Dixon) have their brunch plans delayed by Barbara’s lingering discomfort after a strange encounter. And another woman named Mable (Stokes-Wylie) greets a pair of guests (Smith and Tito Livas) with a freshly baked cake and a story about how she reacts to stories about the lake.
Yockey’s text layers these scenes so that their interconnection only gradually emerges, all set against Halee Rasmussen’s wonderfully versatile set design that allows a room to become several different residences, and possibly even the afterlife. The cast members take on their multiple roles in a way that makes the characters just distinct enough, while placing them all in the context of people with very changing experiences with the weird.
that’s really the point sleeping giant deals with – how do we respond to the mysterious and unknowable in our lives – in a way that could be interpreted as addressing everything from religious faith to a powerful political or social movement. There are subtle metaphorical undertones in scenes that seem mostly grounded in Yockey’s snarky sense of humor, such as a confrontation between two romantic partners (Smith and Livas) that superficially concerns sexual infidelity, but also touches on what’s happens when one person in a relationship begins a spiritual journey that the other cannot understand. And all along there is the realization that the creature that sends so many into reactions of anxiety, devotion or despair has not really Finished anything. Each response is a projection that says more about the person than the awakened creature.
Lively performances and sharp direction from Emilio Casillas and Shawn Francis Saunders make sleeping giant satisfying entertainment, but it’s the kind of entertainment that might bubble up in your brain afterwards unexpectedly. Maybe we always need to replace one god with another. Maybe we’re all so desperate to find out “the secret” that we do crazy things. Or maybe we’re all desperately trying to make sense of the world, when we’re hardwired as humans to believe that everything symbolizes Something.
sleeping giant until October 16.