The thing with No Sleep is, it seems to treat conflict as character development. Its bro-leads – played by Rob Armstrong, Thomas King, and Tyler Toppings, three Regina-based actors – bellow and huff and point and commit an alarming number of what any reasonable observer would consider property crimes, all because the script occasionally insists that, yes, dudes shouting at each other over things they’re mad about deepens relationships. Unfortunately, there’s a nagging question every time someone on stage threatens to punch someone else right in the skull: “How are these guys who hate each other roommates?”
When the testosterone dies down, however, there are some nice moments. In No Sleep, three roommates decide to have a Memorable College Weekend by placing a wager on who can stay awake the longest. This sets up both the action and the stakes of the play in an immediate and satisfying way, and it allows the brief vignettes that follow to develop a delirious sort of momentum; the guys’ actions become more believable as they get more bizarre, following some law of inverse relationships between hours slept and rationality of behaviour.
A scene involving Hulk Hogan and Yoda puppets lands nicely, exploiting the possibility that three guys in this scenario would likely start fucking with each other in weird ways and finding a really novel way to do it. A Zamfir-scored Mexican standoff with Super Soakers, an out-of-nowhere bursting into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and a sleep-madness-induced dance number with a piece of bacon all work really well, too – they’re tightly scripted and smartly choreographed (hat tip to choreographer Chip McDaniel, I suppose!). The common thread between all of these is that the weird, woozy atmosphere of a sleepless weekend is used to the play’s overall advantage. As both individual character moments and scenes that show the bonds that these guys have as college buddies and roommates, they develop nicely.
But with the exception of one scene near the end, a lot of the scenes of Conflict-As-Character-Development seem to have been wedged forcefully into the play. And there are more of those scenes than there are the mildly hallucinatory ones. It makes it hard to see these people living together on a month-to-month basis. In a play that’s about the way three guys interact, that can be a dealbreaker.