Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling

As soon as I walked into the theatre and saw the scenic design for Adam Rapp’s new play, Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling, I knew I was in for a treat. Andrew Boyce & Takeshi Kata’s set was a WASPy dining room, with everything set just perfectly. Now, this is probably not a room in which I would like to dine, but when this kind of dining room is populated with Adam Rapp characters, and when those characters are brought to life by extraordinary actors, it’s definitely the place to be.

Dreams of Flying… begins with the typical Rappian idle chatter. This time it’s spoken by Sandra Cabot (Christine Lahti), her husband Dr. Bertram Cabot (Reed Birney!) and their friend, Dirk Von Stofenberg (Cotter Smith). Sandra and Bert (who, in their over articulation and world travels reminded me a little of Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, although the Cabots weren’t nearly as infuriating) are regaling Dirk with stories of their latest adventure. Sandra wears a beautiful Chanel suit (costume design is by Theresa Squire) and black gloves. Bert wears a seersucker sports coat and actor Birney wears a fake belly to give Bert a more worn-out look. Dirk, on the other hand, looks fit and regal in his Connecticut upper-crust outfit, and his looks don’t escape Sandra’s wondering eyes.

Rapp lets details out little by little, keeping the intrigue on the verge of boiling throughout. The Cabots, including daughter Cora (Katherine Waterston), are hosting a dinner in honor of the Von Stofenbergs’ son, James* (Shane McRae) returning home – though from exactly where we’re not sure. (Dirk’s wife, Celeste, is played by Betsy Aidem.)

All of these people are too educated and too sheltered for their own good. It would seem that they have never experienced anything that wasn’t overly anesthetized so they have to create their own drama. And they do plenty of that. Everyone has an ulterior motive, including, it seems, the wild Canadian geese that keep flying into the Cabots’ windows. Cora asserts that the family is keeping a lion in the basement. Dirk is equally intrigued and appalled at Sandra’s proposition. James engages in suspicious activity. And Bert is smarter than they all give him credit for.

It starts off satirically hilarious and ends on a slightly ambiguous, darkly comedic tone. But thanks to Rapp’s intelligent dialogue, the actors’ great performances and Neil Pepe’s direction, Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling is an engaging journey for the adventurous theatre goer.

*Quick side note: James’s storyline reminded me a little bit of the character Dean Charbonneau in Rapp’s Welcome Home, Dean Charbonneau, which had a reading at the Public last year. Both characters are returning home and in doing so are reentering a world vastly different from the one to which they’d grown accustomed; both characters seems to have borderline inappropriate or possibly even treasonous interactions with an Iraqi youngster; and both are having extreme difficulty relating to and interacting with family and friends. I am curious to know Rapp’s writing timeline, and whether or not Dean and James are intentionally variations on a theme.

Visit atlantictheater.org for more information and to purchase tickets. (Note that this Atlantic Theater production is running at Classic Stage Company.)

Bonus: Christine Lahti spoke with Broadway.com about empty nest syndrome and tacking Adam Rapp's latest work.