Review : 'Dream Cafe' at MBS Productions

Shelley Padilla 

Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

A Successful Re-Invention of Dream Café

Originally performed in 2010 and written by Alejandro de la Costa, MSB Productions bring back Dream Café to the Stone Cottage Theatre in Addison Texas. Highlights from the May 30th performance include Mark-Brian Sonna’s endearing portrayal of lead character Bryan, the boyish over-eager charm of Aaron Jakoboski as Tony, and the unexpected order of the show. 

As the audience settles in to the intimate space of the Stone Cottage theatre, we realize we are about to see a play that hasn’t been performed before when Bryan asks for an audience volunteer to determine the order of the scenes. He points out a list of 6 coffee drinks, written on a chalkboard menu as part of the set, and identifies them each as individual scenes for the play. He then places a number next to each drink/scene labeling the order of tonight’s performance as called out by a selected audience member. In Sonna’s short opening soliloquy, we are challenged to determine if the order of the scenes changes the outcome of how the main character identifies himself. Pointing out that there are 720 possibly outcomes (calculated as 6-factorial (6!) for math enthusiasts), the actors are at the mercy of the scenes, perhaps not even entirely sure of their characters’ perspectives until they get there.

On Saturday, May 30 at 8PM, Dream Café began with House Blend, followed by Bitter Brew and Dessert Blend as the first half of the production. The evening continued with Decaf Coffee and Dark Roast, and concluded with Java Jolt. Through these scenes we learn that Bryan, an over-weight aging playwright, is involved in a somewhat secretive relationship with a handsome young 20-something, has an assertive female bestie, and is carrying-on a long-distance pseudo-romance. The first scene introduces Bryan working on his lap top in the Dream Café while being propositioned by the cute waiter, Kent. Played by Gerald Taylor II, Kent also happens to be an actor hoping to audition for Bryan’s upcoming production. Taylor is adorably stereotypical in his homosexual mannerisms which he sprinkles with memes from African American culture. Regrettably, beyond this scene Kent becomes more of a backdrop, serving coffee and adding the occasional one-liner, while offering Bryan a listening ear once or twice. 

In the first half of the program, we are also introduced to Lila who seems to have relationship troubles of her own. Having recently learned she is pregnant with a partner who is absent 6 months at time for top secret spy work, she proposes to Bryan hoping to keep the baby and her job because, we learn, she works for a conservative Catholic school that would not condone the birth of a baby out of wedlock. Lila is supportive of Bryan pursuing a tryst with the Dream Café waiter while encouraging him not to get too attached to Tony. Unfortunately, she shares all of her opinions at top volume with much fanfare which seems at odds with Bryan’s gentle demeanor, making a best-friend bond between the two seem unbelievable. After her departure, Bryan sits alone in the café and returns a call to the unknown T.M. to send his regrets for not being able to attend TM’s upcoming wedding. The call takes an emotional toll on Bryan, flavored with regret and irony that TM is getting married after all these years, but not to Bryan. The second half promises to shed some light on inferences and questions about Bryan and Tony, or Kent, and also the mysterious TM. Tony and Bryan are in Tony’s small apartment about to embark on a sexual encounter. This is when we discover there is a 22-year age difference between the two. We can see this difference most clearly in how each approaches the evening. Tony is over-zealous, a little fearful, and uncommunicative about much beyond his anticipation for what’s about to happen. Bryan gets distracted by wanting to discuss the relationship, his changing aging body, and Tony’s new homosexual identity (Bryan is Tony’s first and only gay relationship to-date). They end the evening naked and vulnerable to audience view with Bryan taking charge of how the night’s togetherness will physically play-out. 

We are quickly drawn into a new scene with the introduction of Michael, also known as Sven, back at the café. Sven seems well suited for Bryan and Bryan seems much taken with Sven. He is in town for business but eager to connect with Bryan face-to-face since their relationship has been primarily conducted through long-distance communication. They playfully envision what it would be like for Bryan to accompany Sven as his date to a business dinner the next evening but both realize that it will most likely not come to pass. They claim each other as melancholic soul-mates, both feeling unable to relocate for the promise of a permanent relationship.

We return to Tony’s apartment and another session of enthusiastic sex while discovering that we are witnessing Tony and Bryan’s first encounter. Bryan makes time to retrieve several cell-phone voice messages while at Tony’s. These include a brief message from Kent that he is no longer interested in auditioning for Bryan’s play and some cryptic dialogue from Lila about taking care of her problem along with a jumbled reference about seeing each other tomorrow or the next day because she can’t seem to remember which. He also gets a concerning message from Sven that he needs to talk and would like it if Bryan could return the call. So, Bryan does while Tony exits to shower. After painfully pulling information out of Sven, Bryan learns that Sven’s ex has committed suicide. Again, the two lament that they wish they were and should be together. Yet, neither surrenders. As the call ends, Tony has returned and they fall into bed as Bryan begins to utter the words “I love you” only to be cut off by an aggressive kiss from Tony.

The last scene of the evening takes us back to the café. Bryan is eagerly awaiting Tony’s arrival, who shows up late and disheveled. Tony clearly has concerns about their relationship but Bryan is either oblivious or trying to placate Tony’s desire for freedom with declarations of how he enjoys spending time with Tony but doesn’t expect anything from him. This only seems to frustrate Tony. As he gets up to leave, Bryan stammers I love you simultaneously to Tony formally declaring his need to be free, then plants a kiss on Bryan, whispers I love you and storms out. Bryan sits alone and cries while the audience reflects back and wonders, was “TM” Tony or Michael?

Once more, Bryan asks the audience would he be different? Would our perspective of who he is be different if the scenes had played out in an alternate order? From this critic’s point of view, no. Bryan would have made the same or similar choices. Although, the quality of the show warrants a second viewing to test the theory.

MBS Productions
Through June 21, 2015

Tickets range from $20 to $29, depending on the night of the week and the show.

Tickets can be purchase on-line or by calling 214-477-4942, or at the theatre box office 30 minutes before curtain time. Seating is assigned in the order in which tickets are purchased. For special seating requests or handicap seating contact us at 214-477-4942. Please refer to the seating chart for each show for the layout of the seats. There is a $1.95 handling fee for each ticket order done on-line or via credit card. ALL SALES ARE FINAL - NO REFUNDS.

They will not mail you your tickets. Tickets will be held at the box office which opens 45 minutes prior to curtain time. Please either bring the Paypal print out of your purchase confirmation or a state issued ID to pick up your tickets. Because the theatre is so small, in order to not interrupt the performance there will be no late seating. They advise you get to the theatre at least 15 minutes prior to curtain time. 

KERA members receive a buy one get one free ticket for a maximum of 4 tickets. To purchase KERA tickets contact us at 214-477-4942.

The theatre is located at the Addison Conference and Theatre Center. Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road (facing Addison Circle Drive) Addison, TX 75001. Box office # 214-477-4942.

Review : “Nice Girl” at the Labyrinth Theatre Company at Bank Street Theater

Review : “The Spoils” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center