UI playwright's 'Dreams' take center stage


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Private eye. Badass. Whiskey. These are some of the words that describe Christopher Marlowe's character in Christopher Marlowe's Chloroform Dreams.

a play unlike most — it inhabits the dark underbelly of a film-noir world.

The production will take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday through Oct. 30 in the Theatre Building's Theatre B.

"This is a very dangerous world; half of the characters are addicted to drugs, and the other half are gangsters and private eyes," said Sam Hawkins, the actor who plays Christopher Marlowe. "It's very dark."

Hawkins's character leads the action; the rest of the characters are figures from his past who revolve around him in a hazy dream world.

"I kind of imagine Marlowe as sort of this gravitational force that all of these other characters move around," Hawkins said.

Katherine Sherman, a student in the University of Iowa Playwrights' Workshop who wrote the play, possesses an obsession with language and uses it to create innovative work.

Her inspiration for the play was sparked by observing the crossover between religious language and the language used to describe drug use. Many street names for drugs contain words with religious connotations.

"It's a meditation on ritual, on addiction, on heresy, on love," Sherman said.

As she began to work on the play, she said, she began to think about the consequences of what would happen if she cross-pollinated the different universes and realities roaming around in her head.

That gave Chloroform Dreams its eclectic atmosphere.

"It's a collage," she said. "It's a mix-tape. It's a bunch of stuff put together."

Kristin Clippard, who directed Chloroform Dreams, said the play has a heavy film-noir atmosphere in a drug-infested, dark, dreamy world.

"It's a fun and imaginative way of looking at a journey and addiction in the dark world of film noir," she said.

Directing the play, she said, required a lot of experimenting to make the world seem less realistic and more impressionistic.

"We played a lot with using fedoras, and cigarettes, and bows, and lipstick, and just all sorts of things to really create the lone detective and femme-fatale characters," Clippard said.

Sherman said that audiences will enjoy the play because they will see something far from reality.

"They can expect haze, and they can expect trench coats, and they can expect a kind of collage and mash-up," she said. "And it's weird."

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