Imago’s “My Bedroom Is an Installation” Finds an Insomniac in a World of Illusions

Directed by Jerry Mouawad and starring Anne Sorce, the play is a triumph from a company that succeeds by risking failure.

My Bedroom Is an Installation (Kyle Delamarter)

There is a moment in Imago’s My Bedroom Is an Installation when Cynthia, played by Anne Sorce, is confronted by a green window frame descending from the heavens. It’s an invitation to step up to a higher plane of existence, where she ends up dancing with a floating white overcoat in a cosmic void.

My Bedroom Is an Installation only gets stranger and more beautiful from there. Like much of Imago’s theater for older audiences, the play is gleefully impenetrable—impish in the way it bends its own rules, reverent in its love of the bizarre. It’s a triumph from a company that succeeds by risking failure.

The story is punctuated by letters projected on a screen, all of them beginning with “Dear Occupant.” That’s Cynthia, who suffers from insomnia. Supposedly, the god of sleep is keeping an eye on her, but he’s hardly an attentive deity. Abandoned to babble about violence, disease and skeletons, Cynthia is perpetually awake without being fully conscious.

All this could have easily drifted into nonsensical musings, but Sorce is a grounding force. Her volcanic portrayal of Medea, also at Imago, was so persuasive that it was easy to lose yourself in the character’s bloodlust—and, if anything, her performance in My Bedroom is even more potent.

In addition to playing Cynthia, Sorce voices Whip, a wooden puppet carved by director Jerry Mouawad (who co-wrote the play with Drew Pisarra). Also present is a nameless, silent roommate (Sam Gordon) wearing white pajamas, which make him look like Pierrot. Cynthia recoils from his touch, but he seems less like an invader than a fellow passenger on the voyage that is Cynthia’s insomnia.

And what a voyage. My Bedroom captures the monotony and loneliness of sleeplessness, but also an aura of eerie wonderment. Exhausted but alert, Cynthia acquires a mysterious sense of clarity, speaking words that land somewhere between wisdom and nonsense.

Best of all is her monologue about Pandora’s box, which obliquely but pointedly mentions viruses. Is the entire play meant to be a metaphor for life in quarantine? Or the agony of living in a world refusing to reckon with the trauma of the pandemic as it frantically embraces “normal” life? Maybe not, but it’s a testament to the play’s power that it provokes such questions.

Only in its final moments does My Bedroom falter. While a climactic breaking of the fourth wall drew some appreciative chuckles on the night I saw the play, it narrows the story’s scope. There’s a snake-eating-its-own-tail vibe to the concluding scenes, which shift the narrative’s focus aways from weird, distant horizons so the play can cheekily comment on itself.

Still, the journey to that overly literal end is never less than transfixing. In a classic Imago tradition, My Bedroom Is an Installation embraces lostness without ever becoming lost itself. You always understand what Cynthia is feeling within the gloriously peculiar world Imago has created: the desire to go from being dead and awake to being alive in slumber.

SEE IT: My Bedroom Is an Installation plays at Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave., 503-231-9581, 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, through Oct. 22. $23. Recommended for 16 years and up.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.