Savannah playwright Jim Holt has directed three of his own works since September, each with varying degrees of charm and magnetism, under the banner of his resurrected City Lights Theatre Company. Until Sleeping Indoors, which is onstage at S.P.A.C.E. through this weekend, the tightwire between pathos and comedy has walked a bit wobbly.
Sleeping Indoors is the one.
Fittingly, Holt’s play takes place at Christmastime. It’s the story of a well–to–do literary couple who invite a homeless man over for dinner, out of concern for the welfare of their fellow man, and (one suspects) gestating guilt over their own wealth and complacent well–being.
Dwain, who was found under a highway overpass, giving his last sip of milk to a starving kitten, does not drink or take drugs. He is, apparently, not suffering from subterranean mental defects.
But he is strange nonetheless, and it becomes the mission of Paul and Nora to find out just what Dwain’s all about.
Paul is a writer, and a successful book critic, and he reluctantly agrees to read the scribblings in Dwain’s ratty backpack journal. What he finds there surprises him – it knocks him for the proverbial loop – and he and his wife are soon convinced that Dwain, with his filthy clothes, scruffy beard and darting eyes, is actually a brilliant student of the human condition.
But Dwain is not an idiot savant – no, that would be too easy – and as Sleeping Indoors progresses, nicely nuanced, we find out precisely why he chooses to live the way he does. It’s at this point the play becomes far more interesting than the recent Jamie Foxx movie The Soloist, which told a similar tale, albeit disappointingly.
The Sleeping Indoors program includes information on the various Savannah agencies that aid the homeless; a lot of the play concerns the preconceptions people have about homeless people. Holt himself plays Paul, with Jody Chapin as Nora, and Grace Diaz Tootle is Nichole, Nora’s sister. Nichole is man–starved, and – once she gets past the smell and the quirks – she sees Dwain as a potential target.
They’re all cast well, interesting and comfortable in their roles; Tootle in particular brings a welcome infusion of manic energy to the proceedings.
Dwain is warmly played by Kyle Price, who gives his character a sweet Georgian accent and a convincing sense of confusion – and panic.
And, eventually, we see that Dwain might be the smartest person in the room.
None of Sleeping Indoors plays out the way you’ll expect it to, which will not only keep you guessing, it’ll keep you entertained. And engaged.
Holt’s Open House had its moments, but was, in this reviewer’s opinion, weighed down by too many characters and silly sub–plots. I liked Three Picassos, but felt the script wasn’t entirely served by some of the performances.
With Sleeping Indoors, Holt ties all the elements together with a nice Christmas bow. Look for it under your tree.
Sleeping Indoors continues through Dec. 19 at 9 Henry St.