Long Wharf Theatre
“Dream House,” Eliana Pipes’ engrossing new play, is being given a fine production at Long Wharf Theatre. A world premiere play, in partnership with Alliance Theatre and Baltimore Center Stage, “Dream House” is not quite fully realized, but it does offer an intriguing evening of theater. The play focuses on two sisters attempting to sell their home, which has been in the family for generations, through a reality television show called “Flip It and List It.” During the course of the show, one sees how each sister deals with the plans to sell the house, as well as how the relationship between the two of them evolves. Director Laurie Woolery has done a superior job of keeping “Dream House” consistently interesting throughout its hour and forty minute running time, as well as eliciting strong performances from her cast. “Dream House” will no doubt be worked on after its debut at Long Wharf Theatre, but, even at this point, this play is quite provocative and shows a great deal of potential.
When the play opens, Julia (portrayed wonderfully by Darilyn Castillo) has returned to her family home to help her sister Patricia (the excellent Renata Eastlick) sell the house. It is important to mention that their mother has just died after a long period of suffering and that Patricia took care of her, while Julia was there only when she could be. One can sense a feeling of resentment between the two, even as they are laughing and talking about old times together. Also significant in this play is that the sisters are Latino and that their heritage is completely ingrained in their home and the fact that they are attempting to sell it is somewhat at odds with their family history.
In addition to examining how these issues affect each sister, there is the added component that they are selling the house on a reality program, called “Flip It and List It.” The reality host Tessa (the hilariously ever smiling Marianna McClellan) comes with her team of workers and an array of lights and cameras, and an attempt is made to refashion both the history of the house, as well as the lives of Julia and Patricia and their family, to make the house easier to sell to the broadest audience possible and for the most money. I would hate to give too much of the plot of “Dream House” away, since it is the unexpected turns and surprises in the show which make the play so involving, but the sisters’ heritage and ethnicity and even their values are, to varying degrees, compromised during the course of the play, with eye-opening results.
Beyond the actual story in “Dream House,” what makes this show effective is the excellence of both the actors and the design elements. Both actresses at the center of the play are pretty terrific. As Patricia, Renata Eastlick brings an outward brightness to her character, even as she reveals the pain underneath that Patricia has gone through in taking care of her and Julia’s mother. Portraying Julia, who is pregnant in the play, Darilyn Castillo radiates a sense of hope and change, and it is interesting to watch her character transform during the course of the show. As ensemble members, who take on the roles of workers and camera operators, Andrew Martinez, Moira O’Sullivan, Ezra Tozian, and Kevin Sisounthone all do well. Still, if there is a scene-stealer in the cast, it would be Marianna McClellan, as the deliberately plastic host of the reality show, whose peppiness throughout the play is a riot.
Scenic designer Stephanie Osin Cohen has provided the ideal set of the sisters’ house and Haydee Zelideth’s costumes help reflect the personalities of each of the characters. Jason Lynch’s lighting design is superb, and he is aided by the fine work of projection designer Mark Holthusen. Indeed, the director works expertly with her designers as well as her performers. Eliana Pipes’ play, “Dream House,” although not perfect, is certainly thought-provoking, and if there is a message which comes out of this play, it is that you cannot put a price on selling out. “Dream House,” at Long Wharf Theatre, is certainly worth checking out and should inspire conversations long after the play has ended.
“Dream House” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through April 3, 2022. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org.
Photo: Darilyn Castillo and Marianna McClellan