Review | ‘Night Night, Roger Roger’
The Dreams of Sleeping Children Come Alive in “Collage Play” at UC Santa Barbara
Night Night, Roger Roger, directed by Julie Fishell, is a sweet and earnest series of vignettes that explore the dreamscape of sleeping children. The author, fourth-year UCSB student Roni Ragone, has written what they call a “collage” play, a very apt description: The segments bleed into each other with recalled conversations, crossover characters, and overlapping thematic elements, all against a whimsical, dreamlike representation of the world at midnight.
Pre-teen next-door neighbors Robin and Freddy can’t sleep and have a midnight chat through a tin can on a string. Their conversation establishes the audience in a very fluid state on the spectrum of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. Concepts waver between grounded and fantastic: from a childhood crush to a roller-skating grandma evading her overprotective family; from walking the dog to an insane game show with a nightmarish ringleader as a host; from the petty annoyances of being a landlord to imaginary creatures that perform rhyming rituals and watch over sleeping children. One dream melts into the next.
The scenes themselves illustrate a sense of childlike wonder that combines innocence, curiosity, and excitement for life. There are some truly lovely moments (the ukulele serenade, in particular), and while the scenes are short, good rapport is built between characters and relationships are clear and complex. A particular highlight is William Huffaker as Augustus Gustav, the game-show host who is half Willy Wonka, half old-timey mustachioed villain. I would watch an entire play called Midnight Snack starring this deeply weird character.
This play could almost be written as a children’s picture book: colorful illustrations with heartfelt stories about finding community and enjoying companionship. At two hours, it could stand some culling of the extraneous — there’s enough material for 90 minutes with no intermission — but that’s an easy fix.
Night Night, Roger Roger runs at the studio theater on the UCSB campus through March 12. See theaterdance.ucsb.edu.