24 March 2017

'Wakey, Wakey'

A dying man making an appearance in a theater?  Whoaaa!  That might well be your reaction—it was mine—when you twig to what Will Eno’s come up with in his new play Wakey, Wakey, having its world première at the Signature Theatre Company’s Pershing Square Signature Center on Theatre Row.  But don’t be put off by my very skeletal characterization: though it did seem to affect some spectators—a few, like the woman sitting in front of me, even profoundly—it’s not morbid or depressing.   Think Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape with humor.

Wakey, Wakey, Eno’s final production in his five-year, three-play stint as STC’s first graduating Residency Five playwright, started preview performances on 7 February in the company’s Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, the small, 191-seat proscenium house, and opened on 27 February; after two extensions (from 19 and 26 March, respectively), the play’s scheduled to close now on 2 April.  My subscription partner, Diana, and I met at the Signature Center on Friday evening, 17 March, to see the 7:30 performance.

Eno, who also makes his stage-directing début with this production, has been represented at STC with Title and Deed, his freshman outing in his residency in 2012, and The Open House in 2014 (see my report on the latter play, 16 March 2014, which also includes a brief bio of the writer).  2014’s The Realistic Joneses was Eno’s Broadway début; his breakout play was 2005’s Thom Pain (based on nothing), a film version of which, co-directed by Eno, is currently in post-production.  A Helen Merrill Playwriting Fellow, Eno has also received many other accolades for his writing: he’s a 1996 Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow and a 2004 Marian Seldes/Garson Kanin and Guggenheim Fellow; he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2004; Thom Pain was nominated for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and he’s the recipient of the 2012 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award.  In addition to the Pulitzer nomination, his plays have won numerous honors as well: Middletown won the Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play in 2010, Title and Deed received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Solo Show in 2013, and The Open House won both the Lortel for Outstanding Play and the OBIE Award for Playwriting in 2014; also in 2014, the Drama Desk gave Eno a Special Award “For two extraordinary casts and one impressively inventive playwright” for The Open House (Off-Broadway) and The Realistic Joneses (Broadway).

Wakey, Wakey is inspired in part by Eno’s friendship with James Houghton, Signature’s late founder and a mentor to the playwright who died in August 2016 at age 57, and also the September 2016 death of playwright Edward Albee, a former writer-in-residence at STC who remained a loyal friend and supporter.  (“I was thinking of Jim and Edward a lot as I worked on the play,” Eno acknowledged to Theater Pizzazz cyber journalist Carol Rocamora.)  As Eno tells it, his third residency play “was supposed to be something else,” as his main character says of his presentation.  About a year before Houghton’s death, he and the playwright began texting back and forth about ideas for Eno’s last STC script.  “So, we started working on that play,” Eno relates in an interview, “and he was going to direct it and that was really exciting to me.”  But then Houghton went into the hospice where Eno spent a lot of time talking with his mentor while he was dying.  “And then Jim died on August 2nd,” said the dramatist, and he put aside “Jim’s play.”  “I started writing this thing a little while after,” Eno explained. 

The writer was thinking a lot about his friend and mentor while he wrote Wakey, Wakey, but, he insists, “it’s not a play about Jim.”  Eno adds, however, “I hope it’s a little bit with him, somehow.”  

He’s a guy who, I don’t know how to say this, but, he lived with such clarity and integrity and directness, and so you always knew where he stood, and if I’m thinking about something now, I feel like I have a good idea where Jim would stand on it, so it feels like the conversation continues.  I really hope this will feel like a thing that happened, not a play you went to.

What the playwright took from this experience was how Houghton “lived with more reality, on one hand, and more lightness, on the other,” even “in the last week of his life.”  Eno summed up his vision for Wakey, Wakey: “So all these things are qualities I hope—and again it’s not a play about Jim in a biographical way, at all—but I hope the play might have some of his personality.”  As the main character in Wakey, Wakey says, “It’s important to honor the people whose shoulders we stood upon.”

At preset, while the audience filters into the Griffin, Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” is playing.  After the usual announcement about turning off phones and checking listening devices, the music switches to the theme music for the 1960s-’70s TV show The Dating Game.  A recorded voice, the playwright-director’s I believe, comes up and repeats the customary announcement about cell phones and so on, and there’s a kind of rumination about children, accompanied by the voice of a little girl, possibly Eno’s own daughter (who’s just shy of 3), and a reference to eating a banana.  When the lights go down and come back up, a man in pajamas is sprawled face-down on the floor.  He lifts his head and asks, “Is it now?  I thought I had more time.”  Was he passed out?  Did he just wake up from a nap on the carpet?  The lights dim again.  A lighted sign admonishes: “NO APPLAUSE.”

When the lights return, the 60-ish man (Michael Emerson; TV’s Lost and Person of Interest, Off-Broadway’s Gross Indecency: The Trials of Oscar Wilde) is sitting in a wheelchair, a suit jacket over his pajama shirt, and, referring to note cards, offers his insights in a casual, gentle, humorous stream of consciousness about life and death.  The man, whom the program calls “Guy” (though that may not be his name—he doesn’t have one in the script—just his label), is in a characterless room with no furniture, possibly at his home, surrounded by packing boxes and a pile of clothes (the set is by Christine Jones), and is apparently dying.  There’s a door up left, never used as all entrances and exits are made up right: death’s door, do you suppose?  The play’s decidedly Beckettian (to connect to Krapp’s Last Tape, there’s that allusion to a banana!) as Guy meanders through various and sundry topics.  There are slides (starting with two of a toddler who looks remarkably like he could be Emerson as a child—and one of a little girl eating an ice cream cone that might be Eno’s daughter) and home movies, YouTube videos, word puzzles, distant sound effects—a siren (police or an ambulance, he wonders), a cell phone ringing, crickets chirping—and Guy always acknowledges the audience (unlike Krapp and his tape recorder). 

About three-quarters of an hour into the 75-minute performance, Guy’s caregiver, Lisa (January LaVoy), an attractive, stylish younger woman, enters. (Costumes are by Michael Krass.)  Carrying a small picnic cooler—and her own chair—Lisa patiently attends to Guy’s needs and even anticipates some—she brings a kit for making soap bubbles, which Guy admits he loves, and a bag of fortune cookies.  Little by little, Guy loses the thread of his recollections, shows signs of physical weakening, and loses focus as he quietly passes away.

Then the theater erupts in a montage of slides and videos, disco lighting and strobe effects, rock music,  bubbles, and balloons (projections designed by Peter Nigrini, lighting by David Lander, and sound by Nevin Steinberg).  Stage hands bring out baskets of fortune cookies which they place on the edge of the stage, signs inviting us to help ourselves, and the audience goes out into the Griffin’s lobby for refreshments in what can only be called a wake. 

(Going in, I assumed that Eno’s title,  Wakey, Wakey, referred to waking from a sleep, but this final bit makes me realize the playwright’s evoking a wake for the dead as well.  In his STC interview, he confirms this: “I wanted something that sort of has that sense of ‘time to get up’ in it, and also of a ‘wake’—as in an Irish wake, but also has a silly, nursery rhyme thing to it.”)

I enjoyed Wakey, Wakey, and even Diana seemed to have liked it even though it’s an idiosyncratic play.  It’s also slightly metatheatrical—Guy not only addresses us directly but seems to acknowledge that we’re in a theater.  It’s a very quirky play—Eno’s a very quirky writer, and it seems he comes by that naturally (as opposed to putting it on from the outside, like a suit of motley).  He’s clearly not everyone’s cuppa; I don’t say he’s an acquired taste—I don’t think you acquire a taste for Will Eno—but rather you either take to his idiosyncrasies or you don’t, as can be surmised from disparate responses from two reviewers.  “Wakey, Wakey never manages to quite transcend [its ‘seemingly insignificant’] moments; as lovingly as they are described, they just don’t build into a play,” wrote  Elizabeth Wollman on Show Showdown, characterizing the performance as “a bit half-baked.”  On the other hand, Lindsay Timmington acknowledged, “The beauty of Will Eno’s work is that there is always so much more to what you’ve seen and that something will linger with you long after you leave,” on OnStage.  Timmington summed up by reporting, “I leave his shows feeling a tiny bit befuddled, a little exhausted by the marathon of experienced emotions and totally in love with his work.”  I wouldn’t wax as hyperbolic as Timmington, but I fall closer to that end of the continuum of Eno appreciation.  (I enjoy his quirks—they’re like the bubbles in champagne.)

I said I liked the play, but this is another case of my not being certain what the writer’s trying to say.  Eno’s writing about “life and death” (really, the process of dying), obviously, but I haven’t decided what he’s saying on the subject.  (This is my second play in a row at  Signature whose subject is passing from one plane of existence to another.  Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Everyman adaptation, Everybody, treated the same idea in an entirely difference style.  See my report on 6 March.)  I found it intriguing both theatrically and thematically.  (I can tell Eno’s saying something, perhaps very personal, even if I haven’t figured out exactly what that is yet.  Does that make sense?)

The theater’s promo puts it this way:

What are we here for?  Is time a friend or an enemy?  Do we all eventually end up in the same place, but take different routes to get there?  ‘Wakey, Wakey’ challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures.  (All of which might sound dreary, but there’s a chance this will be a really good experience.)  

In the interview with Signature Literary Manager Jenna Clark Embrey, the author gives a clue to what he’s thinking about:

It’s a play that is kind of about . . . people you love and people dying and how do you think about that and what is, uh, what is a person’s—what remains of a person.  Things like that.  And how do we think about our own death and all that—not to be glum because all these things are things you ask yourself or you ask about other people for the purpose of trying to live a more grand and a meaningful, helpful life.

We’ll see if I can figure out Eno’s point by the time I finish this report!  It’ll be interesting to see how close I can get.  (I don’t think Eno, or whoever penned the blurb above, was intentionally echoing Tennessee Williams, but his 1959 play Sweet Bird of Youth started out as a one-act entitled The Enemy—Time.  Guy, and probably Eno, is ambivalent about our relationship to time—that is, aging—but Williams was adamant that time was not man’s friend, leading inexorably to decay and diminishment.)

Michael Emerson’s performance is remarkable, too.  (He was Oscar Wilde in Gross Indecency Off-Broadway in 1997-98; earning an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination.)  I believe he should at least get an OBIE nomination for this work.  He’s so completely natural and organic in a very odd circumstance, he made me think it was entirely reasonable—despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Astounding work.  (His partner, January LaVoy, is equally good, but in a much less tasking role; she’s only on stage for half an hour of a 75-minute play.) 

The acting of the character of Guy here is immensely important, more than for most other lead characters, because handled badly or misguidedly, the play will slip into maudlinness or pretentiousness.  With Eno himself at the helm, the guidance is clearly in good hands—he knows exactly what the part needs to make the play work.  (The tyro director either learned from observation how to work effectively with an actor, or was fortuitous/discerning in his casting.)  As writer, Eno wanted to capture some of James Houghton’s spirit, especially in his last days, and as director, he seems to have guided Emerson toward the same goal.  “If Emerson is not playing Houghton, per se, he is certainly channeling his spirit and perhaps some of the wisdom he left behind,” suggested Hayley Levitt on TheaterMania

Emerson approaches the role with a quiet sincerity, but not without humor—a light touch that never leaks over into preachy or pedantic.  (“Jim . . . had a way with being funny that—since it didn’t seem like it was his first priority—it just made things funnier.” recounts Eno.  “I don’t know how a person can be an incredible leader and a sort of class clown and prankster, but he was a little bit that.”)  He keeps the monologues conversational, as if he were really talking to us and making up his spiel as he goes along, taking cues from the visuals or his memories—or occasionally his notes, which seem to have mostly become irrelevant after he assembled them.  While LaVoy is a tad more actorly as Lisa, Emerson never seems anything but natural, as if he were improvising the whole performance.  (What might look like improvisations or accidents aren’t, as proved by the published reviewers—which I’ll get to at the end of this report as usual—who all comment on the same moments that drew my own attention even though we each will have seen different performances.) 

Furthermore, the actor strikes just the right tone—not quite diffident and not quite in command—to make Guy not only sympathetic as a character, but the regular guy his label identifies him as.  Like the title character in Jacobs-Jenkins’s Everybody, Eno’s—and Emerson’s—Guy is all of us.  (I don’t know if Eno would have objections, but I think Guy could easily be played by a woman; there’s nothing really gender-specific in the part—aside from its designation in the program.)  Maintaining this balance convincingly—and I found it totally convincing—is why I assert Emerson is earning an OBIE nod.  It looks simple, but it’s far from it—as actors and acting students will immediately recognize.  (Given Emerson’s past roles, we can also know that this is work, not just his natural behavior.  He just does it in a way that looks like his normal demeanor.)  Let me just add that this is one of those rare occurrences in theater: the perfect alignment of role and actor.  Kudos to both Eno (for casting Emerson) and Emerson for his stage work!

By the way, one additional remark: this is a play that should appeal to small companies and college theaters—it has the most minimal of sets, two actors, and easy tech (slides, recorded music, and a few simple light and sound FX)—plus it’s very short, a good student-directing candidate if the student can handle the acting style.  (Apparently it’s already in press by Oberon Books for publication on 30 March; the Drama Book Shop is advertizing it now.)

On Show-Score, Wakey, Wakey accumulated an average rating of 72 based on a survey of 34 notices.  The site tallied 68% positive reviews, 12% negative, and 20% mixed.  Show-Score's highest rating was 95, of which there were two, with five 90’s; the lowest score was a single 35, with one 41.  (I’ll be reviewing 19 notices for my round-up.)

In the New York Daily News, Joe Dziemianowicz characterized Wakey, Wakey as an “odd but gently urgent play” in which “the going gets curious.”  Guy’s reminiscence “tends to be elliptical, cryptic and trails off into dead ends,” added the Newsman.  “No matter,” wrote Dziemianowicz: Emerson plays Guy “with a magnetic open-hearted humor, so we stay connected.”  For the suburban Bergen County, New Jersey, Record, Robert Feldberg asserted that Wakey, Wakey “isn’t really a play.  It’s an accounting of the things that matter in life.”  Wrote Feldberg, “Presented with quiet authority and a soft, ironic humor by the remarkable Michael Emerson . . ., observations that might otherwise seem random, and sentimental, coalesce into a painful but brave last embrace of ordinary pleasures.” 

“Though the man telling the jokes is sitting down (he’s in a wheelchair), dying is a stand-up routine in ‘Wakey, Wakey,’” observed Ben Brantley in the New York Times, dubbing it a “glowingly dark, profoundly moving new play” and a “short, resonant tragicomedy.”  Comparing Eno’s work to Albee’s, Brantley also asserted, “‘Wakey, Wakey’ retains a Beckettian sense of human existence as an absurdist vaudeville, a slapstick of failing and falling, despite all aspirations to dignity.”  The Timesman continued, “But Mr. Eno’s play is warmer and less magisterial than most of Mr. Albee’s work.  You could even call it cozy, which is not to say it doesn’t chill.”  The playwright and Michael Emerson “together tap into the show business in the business of breathing your last,” reported Brantley, praising the actor’s portrayal “with a master’s blend of pretty much every emotion there is.”  The Times reviewer declared, “The astonishment of Mr. Emerson’s performance is how universal and particular it is,” characterizing him as a “magnetic presence” and “the show’s most dazzling special effect.” 

The New Yorker’s “Goings On About Town” reviewer described Wakey, Wakey as “theatrical games” and pronounced that the “script’s perfect unpredictability” is “for a long while . . . thrilling.  But, as the protagonist’s energy flags, so does the show’s.”  Emerson, though, “makes for engaging and funny company.”  In the Village Voice, after characterizing the play as “chatting desultorily about life,” Michael Feingold asserted, “It all sounds absurdly trivial and random, which is part of writer-director Eno’s intention,” and then added, “But Wakey Wakey’s sharp writing, heightened by the easygoing asperity of Emerson’s performance, stirs deeper feelings.  Granted, the truth it conveys is small, rarefied, and overly hedged with decorative distractions.  Even so, it’s genuine.” 

Opening his notice in New York magazine with the statement, “The first half of . . . Wakey, Wakey . . . is a neat summary of everything theatergoers either love or hate about Will Eno.  I will write from the latter perspective,” Jesse Green described the play as “a rambling monologue of no apparent consequence.”  After presenting a list of the play’s deficiencies, all emblematic of Green’s complaints about Eno’s dramaturgy, the man from New York concluded, “The topics, however absurd on the surface, all collapse into meditations on mortality; to bring home the point Eno even gives us a YouTube video of animals screaming.  I may have been among them.”  Then LaVoy’s Lisa, “so radiantly warm onstage,” enters and Green reported, “The struggle between insincerity and urgency that Guy has been enacting gives way, under Lisa’s gentleness, to something more direct and beautiful.”  He acknowledged, “I felt my hostility toward the first half of Wakey, Wakey, with all its dull cuteness, beginning to melt.”  Emerson, said Green (in contrast to most other reviewers),”though technically excellent, cannot get so far with his character.”  (The New York review-writer suggested that Eno’s direction is in part to blame for this failure.)  Acknowledging that “the physical production . . . is ideal,” the New York reviewer caviled that “the play as a whole does not yet reward so much care.” 

Comparing Wakey, Wakey with that other Signature production about death and dying, Frank Rizzo labels Eno’s play “a work of humor, humanity and grace that makes you want to hug your lover, your neighbor and maybe an usher on the way out” in Variety.  Emerson “offers a captivating, playful and deeply moving performance” as the dying man, “a loving transition, theatrically told in a sui generis style that is Eno’s own.  As Guy would say, ‘Wowee.’”  Dubbing the play “quietly beautiful,” Time Out New York’s David Cote explained that Eno “makes a spectacle of vamping and false starts, awkward yet deeply felt pauses, as the keen, funny, transfixing Emerson reads from index cards, gets his slides confused and bathes the audience in his gentle, beatific fussiness.” 

In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney, calling Wakey, Wakey the writer’s “typically idiosyncratic little play” and his “latest existential inquiry,” asserted, “Will Eno’s plays tend to live more in his characters’ minds than in any experiences we witness them going through.”  The HR reviewer reported, “The hook that reels us into this abstruse, tricky, stream-of-consciousness contemplation of mortality is a beautiful performance from Michael Emerson.”  In “this unexpectedly affecting (almost) two-character piece,” Eno and Emerson create “also a sense of playfulness.”  There are moments, said Rooney, when “you wonder whether this is more of an inspirational seminar or a play.  In fact it's a little of both and neither.”   He noted, “While the thematic richness of Wakey, Wakey creeps up on you . . ., few will make the claim that this is a major addition to Eno's distinctive body of work.”  Rooney concluded, however, “Eno's unique voice—quizzical, perceptive, assertively compassionate—is one to be celebrated.” 

In the cyber press, Hayley Levitt on TheaterMania quipped, “Only Will Eno could find the playfulness in a dying man’s end-of-life ruminations.”  Levitt observed that Eno ends his Residency Five term “not so much with a bang, but with a wink and a knowing smile that patrons willing to listen intently will receive with warmhearted joy.”  The TM reviewer explained that “Eno’s dialogue remains stilted and aloof.  It serves the play’s purposes—and could not be given a more naturalistic performance than the one Emerson is delivering.”  She warned, however, that “if you require peaks and valleys of drama to keep you engaged in a story, you may get sleepy within Wakey, Wakey’s microscopic modulations and extended silences.”  On CurtainUp, Simon Saltzman dubbed the play “contemplative” and reported, “Never morbid, it is surprisingly illuminating and insightful, even revelatory.”  Of all Eno’s plays, Saltzman said, Wakey, Wakey, “sensitively directed by the playwright,” is “his most easily embraced and most deliberately accessible.”  In the end, she concluded, “The press release has this hopeful line: ‘. . . there’s a chance this will be a really good experience.’  It was . . . and more.”

“I’d love to tell you what Wakey, Wakey . . . is about, but it ain’t easy,” admitted Talkin’ Broadway’s Matthew Murray in the opening of his review.  He offered an explanation of what he says Eno thinks the play is about, then cautions, “But as with so many of Eno’s plays, what makes sense on paper makes nonsense in practice, with whatever points it might have the potential to make crushed beneath the weight of its creator’s enforced artifice.”  Murray then declared, “That it’s his best play since his New York breakthrough . . . is all but irrelevant: How much should any artist be praised for fulfilling the bare minimum of the challenges he sets for himself?”  The TB reviewer asserted, “Emerson does everything he can with” Eno’s script, but “[t]he shtick gets tiresome quickly.”  He continued, “Around its edges, however, Wakey, Wakey evinces more discipline than Eno has displayed in years. . . .   Your reaction to what happens will depend entirely on whether you buy what he’s selling and how he’s selling it.”  On TheaterScene, Joel Benjamin asserted, “Wakey, Wakey is Will Eno at his surreal, troubling, beautiful best, a play both challenging and easily absorbed.  

Theater Pizzazz’s Carol Rocamora opens her review by asking, “What’s this?  A stand-up comedy routine?” adding that the actor in the wheelchair is “not making sense.”  She determined that Wakey, Wakey is “initially mysterious and ultimately deeply moving,” and that Emerson delivers “a mesmerizing monologue that plays with your mind and ultimately with your heart.”  On Theatre’s Leiter Side, Samuel L. Leiter described Eno’s play as “an idiosyncratic, essentially plotless, seriocomic, elliptical, but heartfelt rumination on mortality.”  Yet Leiter warned that Eno “has a gift for unusual situations and quirkily delightful dialogue, and he knows how to get laughs with verbal surprises, but in Wakey, Wakey, he offers little new or revelatory about the human condition.”  Nonetheless, Emerson’s performance “makes you hang on every word, even if you don’t always know precisely what he means.”  Leiter’s concluding thoughts are:

As Wakey, Wakey moves inexorably toward its anticipated conclusion (climax is too animated a word), its unhurried pace slows . . . to . . . a . . . crawl, making its title seem a misreading for Wake Me, Wake Me.  Its acting and production elements score highly, but while some visitors will certainly be touched others are likely to find Wakey, Wakey  too wishy-washy for their tastes.
Emily Gawlak of StageBuddy labeled Wakey, Wakey “overwhelmingly joyous, moving, and unpredictable” and declared, “With Wakey, Wakey, Eno and Emerson achieve a stunning feat, compelling an audience of strangers to deeply mourn the loss of a man who is not only a stranger but a fiction.”  Gawlak concluded, “Wakey, Wakey is a truly great play, one that reasserts the unique power of theatre to create a space for catharsis and community building.  You’ll want to recapture the heart-bursting, life-affirming feeling again and again.”  On Broadway World, Michael Dale acknowledged, “Emerson makes for appealing company and Eno’s meandering text has its cute and funny moments.”  He then added, “But there’s also a redundant meta quality that gets tiresome.”  Echoing one of Guy’s lines, Dale finished up quipping, “As for any further descriptions, I don’t know exactly what to say to you.”

Tulis McCall started off by praising Emerson’s performance in Wakey, Wakey on New York Theatre Guide, then continued, “Would that the material itself held up as well.”  Emerson, McCall asserted, “is apparently very funny if you were to judge from the reactions of the audience the night I attended.  I found his work intriguing and introspective, but not funny in the least.”  The NYTG reviewer observed, “Eno writes with sly winks and nods and intellectual forays thither and yon.  It can be a pleasure to listen to, especially in the hands of Emerson who is both deft and grounded . . . .”  Then she lamented, “In the end, however, there is not enough ‘there’ there on which you can hang your hat.”  McCall’s conclusion?  “Wakey Wakey is an event that falls short of becoming a piece that hits you where you live, or, in this case, expire.”  On New York Theater, Jonathan Mandell, dubbing Wakey, Wakey “the latest ethereal, esoteric play by Will Eno,” referred to a line of Guy’s—“They say practicing gratitude can physically change the shape of the brain, in a good way”—which he actually looks up on the ‘Net.  (It turns out to be true.)  Then he added, “I doubt my brain is going to be changed very much by ‘Wakey, Wakey,’ but I did like it better than anything else I’ve seen by Eno, whose comic, cosmic, cryptic approach to playwriting has consistently charmed other people.”  Mandell went on to admit, “Too often, I’ve found his impish sensibility grating.”  Though the NY Theater review-writer found, “With gentle humor and a lack of fussiness, Michael Emerson manages to woo us through the deliberate vagueness, starts-and-stops, meta interruptions, of his monologue,” in the final analysis, he felt, “Much of what Eno’s script is trying to induce about the celebration and uncertainty of life and death has been done better and with more clarity elsewhere.” 

Okay, so what did I learn—about Eno’s point, I mean?  Leaving aside the tribute and homage to James Houghton, the playwright’s private message embedded in his play, I’m going to have to say that Wakey, Wakey is Eno’s lesson in saying goodbye.  “There’s always someone or something to say goodbye to,” says Guy, and Eno’s told us how much he learned from Houghton’s last days.  It’s not portentous last words that matter, Eno says, but first words.  Learning to say goodbye might help us learn to say hello better, says Guy.  Then we can talk about all the trivial small things that make up a life—our own and other people’s.  We don’t learn much about Guy’s circumstances—but we do learn something about his . . . well, what should I call it?  His soul.  Eno just called it “what remains of a person.”  Eno’s obviously not a subscriber to Dylan Thomas’s view on dying, for Guy chats with us, shares his thoughts and feelings, and then goes gentle into that good night.  What Eno wants us to understand, then, is how to do that with class.  What d’ya think?  How’d I do in the end?

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