ShareThis Page

Review: Audience must conceive its own reality for 'Dream of Autumn'

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Karla Boos in Quantum Theatre's 'Dream of Autumn'
Heather Mull
Karla Boos in Quantum Theatre's 'Dream of Autumn'
Jennifer Tober in Quantum Theatre's 'Dream of August.'
Heather Mull
Jennifer Tober in Quantum Theatre's 'Dream of August.'

The spirit and enigmas of Samuel Beckett live on in Jon Fosse's “Dream of Autumn.”

Past, present and possibly the future intersect, interact and present themselves for contemplation in a vast, barren and deserted landscape in Quantum Theatre's production of this contemporary drama by a Norwegian playwright.

While little known in the United States, Fosse is revered in much of the rest of the world, where his plays have been translated into more than 40 languages.

Sarah Cameron Sunde, the play's director and translator, introduces Fosse to us in what's billed as the world premiere of her translation, which makes eloquent use of Fosse's signature pauses and renders his dialogue into American English.

“Dream of Autumn” is set in a cemetery where a man and a woman meet amongst the broken and lopsided bits of furniture that serve as tombstones. Eventually they are joined by three others — the man's mother and father and his first wife.

Time moves backward and forward throughout. It's up to the audience to construct and interpret their own timeline and piece together what's happening.

It can be emotionally exhausting, as almost everyone is in almost continual crisis and contentious relationships. They hunger for love and understanding while pushing each other away and substituting pointless chit-chat for real communication.

As in real life, the cemetery is an apt setting for the contemplation of the play's overriding themes — life, death, love, family.

An hourglass suspended from the ceiling at the play's start indicates the passage of time as it seeps away without respect to the action and emotions that go on around it.

Those are big issues, and Quantum has chosen a vast space on which to explore them — the depths of the Royal York apartment building that the elegant Park Schenley restaurant once occupied.

Longtime Pittsburghers who remember special-occasion meals there will be hard pressed to recognize it in its present form. Once familiar, it now defies memory. Were those windows always there? Was the ceiling really that low?

It's a space seemingly in limbo, frozen in mid-demolition. Exposed electrical cables sag from the ceiling above uneven concrete floors and subterranean walkways.

Scenic designer Narelle Sissons, lighting designer C. Todd Brown and sound designer Joe Pino capitalize on the vastness of the space and its shattered state.

It allows characters to materialize and evaporate much as they do in dreams or memories or to linger in the background while others command attention.

Huge support columns occasionally obscure actors in mid-scene, clearly a directorial choice.

Depending on your point of view — both dramaturgically and as an observer, the choice either adds an element of eeriness through disembodied voices or serves as an irritant.

It's up to the audience to interpret the drama's many paradoxes, such as the fact that life is simultaneously very long and very short.

That's also true of the production itself. It plays without intermission in one hour and 40 minutes.

But for those packed tightly together on Quantum's folding chairs, it can also feel like an eternity.

However, the cast of five do a remarkable job of maintaining the play's tension and its many enigmas, chief of which is whether Karla Boos' Woman is simply the Man's lover or a metaphor for death.

Whether it's either or both, she's an enticing temptation.

The always interesting Martin Giles is properly indecisive and ambivalent as the Man.

Laurie Klatscher and Gregory Lehane inject vibrant conflict, color and tension as Woman and Mother, as does Jennifer Tober as Gry, Man's former wife.

Ultimately what you take away from “Dream of Autumn” is very personal.

It's a build-it-yourself project that's constructed through individual interpretation and understanding.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.