Saturday, February 1, 2020

ACT presents Will Eno's 'Wakey, Wakey'

Lisa (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) listens to Guy (Tony Hale).

The protagonist in Will Eno’s “Wakey, Wakey” is Guy (Tony Hale), a man in a wheelchair ruminating on what’s important in life.

In this American Conservatory Theater production directed by Anne Kauffman, it gradually becomes apparent that Guy probably doesn’t have long to live and that he’s in what might be a hospice (the set by costume designer Kimie Nishikawa with lighting by Russell H. Champa).

The play is essentially a stream-of-consciousness monologue lasting an hour or so until Lisa (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) arrives. A caregiver, she mostly listens as he continues to weaken.

That’s about it. There’s no plot per se.

Although it can become tiresome, one of Guy’s points resonated. He told audience members to recall a person in their lives who made a difference, who set off a chain of events that led to where they are today.

Various projections such as animals or a child delighting in an ice cream cone add some visual interest. They’re by sound designer Leah Gelpe.

This 75-minute play is preceded by Eno’s “The Substitution,” a 15-minute play featuring four students from ACT’s MFA program and Smith-McGlynn as a community college substitute teacher, Ms. Forester.

Ms. Forester starts by teaching one subject until the students tell her that this is a drivers ed class.

Because it’s in a boxy classroom (curtained off for “Wakey, Wakey”), the sound doesn’t travel well, making the lines hard to hear.

The total production lasts about 90 minutes with no intermission.

“Wakey, Wakey” will continue through Feb. 16 at ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco.

For tickets and information, call (415) 749-2228 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne