J. Patrick (left) as the Sandman and Bodhi Miller as Andy in Mercury Players Theatre's The Velvet Sky.
The Velvet Sky by Mercury Players Theatre is the nightmarish story of 12-year-old Andy, who, after being pulled from his home by his father, ends up alone in the middle of the night in New York City. Andy is pursued by his father; his distraught, insomniac mother; and, perhaps, an evil force. The action weaves through realms of night and nightmare, reality and hallucination. The overall effect leaves the audience shifting in their seats and sending them home a bit freaked out.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's script isn't great -- The Velvet Sky has plot holes and some clichéd lines -- but it is successful at being uncomfortable and unsettling. The creepiness is captured, in part, by well-done sound design that emphasizes the nightmarish landscape. Also upping the spook factor are the white masks worn by supporting characters. These emulate the look of someone unconscious -- they seem zonked out, blank-faced bystanders. Or are they part of the evil current that follows young Andy as he wanders the seedier parts of the Big Apple?
The Velvet Sky, which opened Friday on the Bartell Theatre's Evjue Stage, is performed in the round, a good choice for a play that -- like some nightmares -- goes around in circles. Characters keep missing each other, people are not who they seem, and the chase seems never-ending. Painted on the floor is a circular design that looks a lot like the logo of Lost's Dharma Initiative. It's a fascinating addition to the stage, though I couldn't quite figure out what it is was meant to represent. A cross between a web and a clock, perhaps?
While some of the cast come across a bit one-dimensionally, Dana Pellebon is very convincing as complex Bethany, a sleep-deprived, desperate mother. Also remarkable is J. Patrick. As the Sandman of nightmares, he is perfect. He performs precisely as if nothing could shake him from his role. He enters into the part fully and is entrancing onstage. If you have bad dreams after this show -- and you might -- he'll be the main character.
As Andy, Bodhi Miller-Wright deserves credit for taking on a role that requires an odd blend of naveté and maturity. Andy's caught between being a kid and a grown-up, and Miller-Wright moves nicely between his explorations into being an adult and his desire to stay a child.
Despite the main character being a 12-year-old boy, this play isn't for young audiences -- Mercury Players advises that audience members should be 14 years or older and I'd have to agree. In addition to the general eeriness of the show, subjects like pornography, sexual identity, violence, and pedophilia are presented.
If you're looking for a play that will leave you a bit shaken up on a spooky October evening, The Velvet Sky is a disturbing trip into a nightmare. It might keep you up at night.