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Posted at 1:25 PM ET, 07/25/2008

A Little Bit at a Time

By Stephanie Merry

"Dream Sailors" is a whodunit in four parts. (Keith A. Erickson - Rorschach Theatre)

Anyone who has followed a season of "24" or "Lost" knows the immense power of the cliffhanger. As soon as the hour ends, a week seems like an eternity to wait to find out if Jack Bauer will save the world. Apparently Randy Baker, who penned Rorschach Theatre's "Dream Sailors," has figured this out as well, because as soon as last night's theatrical "episode" ended, I had to find out what would happen next.

"Dream Sailors" is a play in four parts. Each week a new episode picks up where the last hour-long segment left off. The plot revolves around four acquaintances who accidentally lock themselves in a basement without phones or Internet. Worse yet, while the four were sleeping, a fifth character was brutally murdered. But it may not be as simple as which of the four committed the crime. Even though they seem to be alone in the locked room, at least three of the four character's dreams are haunted by a terrifying scar-faced stranger, who certainly seems angry enough to kill. But how could he have escaped from the dream world into reality? When I was pondering all of this, one of the characters suddenly disappeared and the lights went out. And that was the end of episode two.

When I heard about "Dream Sailors," I was especially interested in the format, but it seemed like it could be as problematic as it is novel. What happens if you miss the first episode? Usually if I miss one episode of "24," I'll just give up because in that lost hour, I've probably missed three presidential assassination attempts, one traitor inside CTU and the death of a main character.

But "Dream Sailors" makes it easy to jump in midway. I went to the second episode without seeing the first and found out that I could watch a "previously on" video on both the Rorschach blog and at the theater before the show began. Rorschach also provides a cheat-sheet with the list of characters, so it's easier to keep everyone--and their bizarre dreams--straight. Earlier episodes will also be reprised if you decide you want to see it all from start to finish.

While I'm now a big fan of splitting plays into episodes, I have a feeling that it would really have to be more of a thriller with cliffhangers to keep me coming back. Let me know what you think of the format in the comments.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 25, 2008; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Events, Theater  
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Obviously Rorschach is the coolest theatre company in town....who else could rock 3 shows at the same time?

Posted by: Hercules Q. Einstein | July 28, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

The show is rediculously exciting and Rorschach is just proving how spunky of a company they truly are. After years of having a home in Columbia heights they have gone back to their roots and moved again. Performing 3 shows in one building and creating a new DC style of theatre (episodic theatre). It really is incredible how on the cutting edge Rorschach can be.

Posted by: Dante Hicks | July 28, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I've actually been helping out on this particular piece of theatre - but I haven't been an essential background figure. I've not read the scripts, and I come to the process only shortly before a real audience does. And for me, I'm loving the episodic nature of the play. Each time, after I see one, I want to see the next. Almost can't wait to see the next. It's thrilling in that it's different and it does ask its audience to be more involved and committed to the process of seeing live theatre. And I would like to see more people try to see the episodes as they premiere, instead of waiting until the marathon days to try to see all four at once. They will sell out, and then lots of people wont get to experience this rare and unusual form of theatre.

Posted by: Dolores McKeon | July 28, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I think that this episodic format is really interesting. It might become one of the newest trends in theatre--rorschach's always on the cutting edge! Congrats.

Posted by: Mattie Green | July 29, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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