If you need proof that extraordinary imagination, talent, and creativity trump an enormous budget every time, Found Theater Company provides it once again with DEEP BLUE SLEEP. This year’s Fringe offering by one of Philadelphia’s most consistently impressive young collectives transports us through a maritime dreamscape of sailors and pirates, shipwrecks and skeletons, sea shanties and sea creatures, as two children drift into a fitful sleep filled with the imagery of bedtime stories and seafaring tales told to them by their mother. Their moody nocturnal adventure is at times funny, at times mysterious, and at times nightmarish, but it is always enthralling, thanks to an ingenious concept and a skillful cast and team.
Directed by company member Alison Mae Hoban and performed by a multi-talented seven-person ensemble (Sean Lally, Phoebe Schaub, Robert Carlton, Amy Frear, Laura Michelle Edoff, and the delightful Emily R. Johnson and Joe Wozniak as the children), Found’s self-devised piece incorporates original live music, dialogue, and sound effects with arresting movement (designed by Lally and Johnson), evocative lighting (by Justin Howe), well-conceived props and costumes (by Wozniak), and the smart transformation of a found space (the Painted Bride’s two-level art gallery) into the upper and lower decks of a ship (scenic design also by Wozniak). The vocal harmonies are haunting (musical direction by Schaub), the instrumentals and lyrics are redolent of historic nautical songs, and the script is intelligent and well-researched, with references to such classic marine-based legends as Long John Silver, The Ship of Fools, Penelope, and Moby Dick (Howe is credited in the program as the “Lore Master”). Every second of DEEP BLUE SLEEP is captivating and beautiful; it is a total sensory treat and a highlight of this year’s Festival. [Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street] September 6-20, 2014 ; fringearts.com/event/deep-blue-sleep-14.