Imagine becoming so anxious and fearful about your life that you lose the ability to sleep. You start taking baths at five in the morning and are unable to help your spouse with your newborn child. This unsettling scenario occurs in the University of Calgary's production of Insomnia, a play by award-winning playwrights Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia.
John (Fane Tse) is the sleepless lead character who has allowed himself to become overwhelmed by fear and doubt. He worries about his marriage, his finances, his career and society in general. Along with the early morning baths, he attempts to cope with this newfound apprehension by writing an opus on democracy.
Unfortunately, these efforts only add to his instability.
Director Simon Mallett believes the play has particular relevance in a university setting.
"In a university environment, people are taught to question everything," he says. "What happens on a personal level when you do such a thing?"
The relationship between John and his brother William (Tim Nguyen) also demonstrates the different levels of political and social awareness found at the university level.
"Universities are typically full of people who are very politically active as well as people who don't know the first thing about a lot of social issues," reflects Mallett. "The two brothers in the play represent both ends of the spectrum, and so the way they interact provides an interesting examination of how people with opposing viewpoints can co-exist."
Although Insomnia contains some politically-oriented messages, the real heart of the story is based in normal human fears and emotions. The audience gets to see the world through the eyes of John with the aid of special effects, which allows for a more thorough understanding of the nightmare he is living.
Insomnia is also unique in the sense that it is a collaborative effort between professors and students in the Drama Department.
"It's a thrill as a director to be able to work with designers who are members of the faculty and have so much experience and knowledge that they contribute to the show," says Mallett of the set designer and lighting designer, both long-time faculty members.
As the last play of the season, Insomnia explores a variety of challenging issues through a range of personalities. A diverse assortment of questions will be raised to which everyone will respond quite differently.
Insomnia plays at the Reeve Theatre though Sat., Apr. 17. Tickets are available at the door.