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Turns out Sleeping Beauty's dreams are confusing and weird just like everyone else's

Collective Unconscious

Collective Unconscious Matt Benyo

"Collective unconscious" is a Jungian term for shared human memory; it includes archetypes commonly found in fairy tales and other stories. Collective Unconscious Performance, a local theater company, has set out to "re-imagine" those stories "from a bold, contemporary perspective."

Red Eye Theater
$15-$25 sliding scale

In the case of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, that means a chase scene soundtracked by "Yakety Sax." There are also choreographed musical numbers featuring "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" and the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha," as well as a fantasy dance set to the song "Toyland."

The particular unconscious being unpacked here is that of Sleeping Beauty herself, the girl who was cursed to fall asleep for 100 years. What did she dream about? Get ready for some surprises.

Writer Katharine Sherman and director David Hanzal have zeroed in on one of the weirder details of that fairy tale: the ominous needle that brings about the girl's century of slumber. Why did it prove so impossible for Sleeping Beauty to avoid? The answer, this show suggests, is that she might have touched it willingly.

The needle stands erect at its spinning wheel in the middle of the Red Eye stage, and the princess actually gets pricked several times over the course of this 75-minute show. She's mostly played by Justin Leaf in a blonde wing and a variety of gauzy pink-and-white garments, with occasional stand-ins by a ghoulish puppet.

A supporting company of seven performers play Sleeping Beauty's friends, relatives, and lovers; gender-crossing is the norm, in a way that queers the story and also serves to dislocate the characters from the actors playing them. What does it mean that this hyperfeminine heroine is played by a man? Whatever your unconscious tells you it means, that's what.

The non-linear show dramatizes various episodes from Sleeping Beauty's life: things that might have happened, things that might not have, and things that might happen in the future. The appropriately dreamlike atmosphere is created by a heavy haze, with lighting designer Søren Olsen's multi-colored spotlights hitting the performers from all directions.

Though the actors all bring focus and energy to their roles, in the end this Sleeping Beauty doesn't add up to much. None of the individual scenes are especially engaging, which is particularly problematic given the lack of a conventional story to hold our attention. The connective thematic tissue is too vaguely specified, and the show's recursive structure tends to confuse rather than fascinate.

Collective Unconscious is a new company, and co-founders Hanzal and Sherman have clearly succeeded in coalescing a talented group of artists around a strong shared vision. There's a lot to build on here, but the challenge in describing dreams to others is that somehow they always seem way more interesting to the person doing the describing.