“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree – where Alf, the sacred invader, ran upon a stage measureless of man.”
So begins Emmett Lee Dickinson’s rarely performed epic, “Dream Freaks Fall From Space,” the larger-than-life tale of a girl from the mountains who dreams of moving to Chicago in 1893 to become a carnie and run a tilt-a-whirl at the World's Columbian Exposition.
The long wait is over, though, for a contemporary take on this classic tale with The Second City’s premier of its ambitious sixteen-million dollar production of Dickinson’s magnum opus.
“Dream Freaks Fall From Space” has long been one of the most difficult theatrical adaptations to stage. A complete telling of the story runs a length of about four hours, and it is filled with long stretches of difficult vocal passages, abnormal body movements, and a bevy of fantastical plot elements (including flying horses, magic fires, underwater settings, and synchronized comedy). Even Dickinson himself, while still writing “Freaks,” feared that he might have trespassed into “the unstageable and the unactable.”
The Second City, though, has hit the sweet spot with the right mix of peculiar thespians who pull off the laughs and melancholy with just the right touch of mirth and pathos.
Ryan Asher plays Tillie, a girl from the mountains who dreams of becoming a carnie. She runs off with Lakinhurst Grigsby (played by Jeff Murdoch), a stock-boy in the frozen foods section at Walgreens. Along the way, the two happy wanderers meet Jukes, played by Tyler Davis, a leech collector for Doctor Alfred Dyball, an anthropomorphic taxidermist played by Nate Varrone. Later, it is Dr. Dyball who relates to Tillie and Lakinhurst the bizarre tale of curious mutants from space, played by Kelsey Kinney and Tien Tran, who collect teeth from selfish and overindulged children.
Dickinson based the story on a poem he had written earlier, “The Attitudes of Excitation” (below on the left). The poem was composed one night after Dickinson experienced an opium-influenced dream about “freaks falling from space.” The poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem “The Lassitudes of Contimplation” (below on the right) and it also inspired the 80’s sitcom “Alf.”
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
The Attitudes of Excitation
Beget a farce
They are the spirits of elation
That do refresh –
The Dream freaks fall from space in action –
And prattle fair
By Emily Dickinson:
The Lassitudes of Contemplation
Beget a force
They are the spirit's still vacation
That him refresh –
The Dreams consolidate in action –
What mettle fair
For information on The Second City's production of Dickinson's epic tale, Dream Freaks Fall From Space, click HERE.