Ochre House Theatre in Dallas, TX presents a play featuring the mythmade legend and eccentric genius indelibly ingrained into internet culture as the defacto leader of invention and curiosity that is Nikola Tesla in Dreaming Electric, written and directed for the stage by Kevin Grammer. And let me tell you, it is a charmingly flawed delight.
The show starts off in darkness as we come to Nikola Tesla (Justin Locklear) waxing poetic/mathematical philosophy, surrounded by floating glowing orbs carried about the stage by the rest of the ensemble cast as to emphasize the value of his words before the lights arise and we are welcome simply by the titular character scurrying about his laboratory and his company, Anital Szigety (Trey Pendergrass) adding humor and musicality to the situation, sitting before the organ. You see, Mr. Tesla has decided to throw a party for an exciting announcement, that of the greatest breakthrough to ever grace mankind – or is it?
The cast are wonderful and warm to each other, as if they truly are friends who sympathize with each other’s plights, especially Tesla’s, what with his fear of physical touch, hair, specifics appros the placement of particular items, and what exact time is acceptable to announce his grandest of grand surprises. Carla Parker as Katherine Johnson is the absolute warmest in her tern as a sympathetic friend struggling with her love for someone who unlocked a side of her that only he can understand. Chris Sykes as Charles Bachelor is a riot to no exaggerated degree. At first his antics seemed as though they were going to grow old and unfortunate, but in quick time his sensual seduction as performed on the organ by playing a version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game won over the entire audience and from then on he was an obvious favorite. The clear antagonist of Dreaming Electric was Ben Bryant’s Thomas Edison. From his late entrance to the party, wearing a bright red party hat, his turns with the men of the play allowed for a combatant twist that without him would have been impossible and sorely missed. The caring attitude that Cassie Bann’s Anne Morgan purveyed to Tesla greatly benefited her later disagreements with her baritone father, JP Morgan (Chad Spear).
The set design was minuscule, but with that came ingenuity and wit. From beginning to end the entirety of the stage was used with a roaring fearlessness to the point that this writer was in the palm of every actors hand – this time I won’t blame the free glasses of white wine, which was terrible, but free, you see. While the costume design perfectly cast allusion to the era, the music wonderfully pulled the audience into that era and smacked us around a bit, it was the constant and subdued change in lighting that truly won the show in its atmospheric quality.
Even though my date and I had to wait in line beside the street even though our tickets had been bought hours in advance, once we stepped in, recieved our complimentary white wine ick! and sat down, the lights eventually faded where we were transported into a world cleverly and sophisticatedly well crafted with characters of dignity and grace, the lively attention and care put into every piece of Dreaming Electric encapsulated the entirety of that little room whether we wanted to leave or not. We had no choice and frankly, until it was over, everyone forgot they were there.
There are showings until Nov. 19th. If you’re in the Dallas, T area buy tickets here.