Cocaine Dreams is semi-fantastical tale of a cocaine addict and his obsession with Sigmund Freud, based upon the writings of the influential psychologist during his own years of heavy cocaine use. Howard Pflanzer's conceptually intriguing play intertwines scenes from Freud's chemically fettered life with more contemporary horrors of addiction.
The play opens in the present day with a young man (Tim Tolan) ecstatically inhaling cocaine off the floor. What follows is the first of many dream sequences--a series of famous characters parade on stage, from Thomas Edison to Jules Verne, touting the benefits of cocaine. While the young man sleeps, Sigmund Freud, convincingly played by Richard O'Brien, revels in his newfound discovery, Vin Mariani, or Coca Wine. It promotes clarity of mind, sexuality, and even cures morphine addiction. Then appears a lithe woman clad white dress, a physical manifestation of the drug. This character of Coca was created and developed by the show's director Lissa Moira, and is portrayed by Jill Simon as a wonderfully physical and mute seductress. High for only the second time, Freud caresses his world-weary wife Martha (Terri Galvin), and simultaneously fondles Coca who drapes herself on him, and a whole new world of pleasure, ambition and sexuality is revealed. "Coca can heal zee soul," he proclaims in a distracting, exaggerated Austrian accent that plagues most of the cast.
As the play unfolds, the contemporary counterpart becomes hopelessly addicted to the stimulant and to the idolization of Freud. When he sleeps, he dreams of vignettes from Freud's life, and within those dreams are scenes of heady hallucinations. Of the three layers-dreams, present day and historical configuration-it is the third portion that is the most compelling. In an early therapy session, we meet the Freudian 'hysteric'--a prim woman whose thinly veiled erotic dream terrifies her and, once revealed, unleashes the seductress within. This and other well-known instances in Freud's career are interpreted, from the disintegration of his marriage, to his relationship with Carl Jung, to the undying support from his daughter Anna. All the while, his affair with the cigar-smoking Coca influences his therapy, his family and his writing.
Leaving Cocaine Dreams is like waking from a dream. Only fragmented images remain, and one is left with is a sense that something very important but more markedly cryptic has just been revealed.