The University’s Lab Theatre explores Scottish folklore, horror and mystery in its newest production “Dreams and Stains.” Writer and director Sara Brooke Christian was inspired by the tale of Sawney Bean and his clan of cannibals from the famous Edinburgh dungeons during a recent visit to Scotland.
The play begins without warning. The house lights extinguish as the rumble and crash of thunder reverberates throughout the theatre. The patter of rain induces shivers as the lighthearted nature of pre-show morphs into the anticipation of something bloody and sinister — a show fitting for the spooky Halloween season.
Running through Sunday, “Dreams and Stains” follows married robbers Sawny Beans (played by Mike McDonough) and his wife Sheena (played by Sophia Brazda) in their coastal cave — which also happens to be inhabited by the demons Bodoch (Jonny Tran) and Bean Nighe (Zoey Young), who feed upon the dark deeds of the couple.
Christian, a third year theatre Ph.D. student, says she wrote the play to show viewers how people constantly change, sometimes unconsciously. Though the production’s plot and underlying theme may seem convoluted, it ultimately asks showgoers to examine the driving forces in their lives and how those could be manipulated.
“[We want] people to have a fun time but also leave with the idea that we can change without realizing it and become different people,” Christian says. “Like [the Beans] … slowly turned into cannibals. So, how does that happen to people and how that could happen to us if we let certain darkness into our lives.”
The plot gets rolling when the demon Bodoch finds The Traveler, played by theatre senior Tessa LaFleur. The Traveler, who serves as the play’s comedic relief, is trapped inside a barrel in the cave of cannibals. The demons vow to help her escape and desperately try to ensure the continuation of their hosts.
LaFleur says the show has been an opportunity for her to try stage combat as well as master a more difficult accent. The production challenges the audience to rethink the motivation behind their behavior and what influences personal action, she says.
“As much as this show is just a lot of fun, especially for Halloween, I think there is an underlying narrative about how we don’t always know what’s pulling our strings and what injustices we are committing in the name of necessity, and if they are even necessary,” LaFleur says. “I hope for people to leave wondering more how they’re [more] similar to cannibals, [rather] than how they’re different.”
“Dreams and Stains” runs until Sunday in the Studio Theatre in the Music and Dramatic Arts Building. General admission is $12. Purchase tickets here.