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Sleep Awake

"I finally admitted that I'm not Superman."

Seen through a perpetual cloud of pot smoke, Jesse Alick's ambitious but self-indulgent "Sleep Awake" offers up three college-age New York roommates as they deal with gnawing self-discovery, fatal illness and the war on terrorism.

After moving together from dank but romanticized squatter's digs to their first real apartment, three barely twentysomethings are suddenly faced with real-life issues. Two suffer predominantly from growing pains: Hard-working Eve (Teresa Lim) struggles with a job she hates, while out-of-work video game addict Kyle (Brian Corr) has difficulty dealing with personal responsibility.

The third, however, deals with much more. In the midst of a troubled romance with Boris (Dylan Lane), Cameron (Alick) discovers he's HIV-positive, and is thrown headlong into a world of doctors, pill regimens, drug side effects (like vomiting) and the difficulty of hiding it from co-workers. His roommates help, but then comes Sept. 11th, which sends all three of them into an emotional tailspin.

Much of the story revolves around bitch sessions in the trio's apartment, accompanied by a prodigious amount of marijuana smoking. In between scenes, the five other members of the cast act primarily as a poetic chorus, highlighting the action.

Despite sharp performances by the cast -- in particular, by the four extremely talented principals -- and punchy direction by Zachary R. Mannheimer, the 150-minute "Sleep Awake" starts relatively strong (in particular, scenes between Lim and Coor have a nice energy) but gets lost midway through, falling into, by play's end, endless scenes of undergraduate philosophizing and pseudo-political ranting. In fact, by late in the second act, the play loses much of its original spark and meanders for about 40 minutes too long.

In addition, Daniel Marcus' set and lighting designs are stark but effective.

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