“Dream Catcher,” the current offering at the Fountain Theatre, is a two-hander that sounds as though it will be a polemic. Roy (Brian Tichnell) is a solar power engineer with the opportunity of a lifetime. For the past three months he has been working in the Mojave Desert on a billion-dollar solar installation with the biggest names in the business. He is advancing himself professionally, doing good for the planet, and is having a sex-filled fling with a hot Indian woman, Opal (Elizabeth Frances), from the local reservation. She has called him out to the site with something urgent to share: she has found human teeth in the sand, lots of them, and is convinced that this is the location of an ancient burial site and therefore sacred to her tribe. The sex may be great, but the conflict of cultures, the threat to Roy’s nascent career, and the potential disruption of a major, potentially do-good project, is not. In the hands of a less skillful writer the set up would be a politically correct disaster. Stephan Sachs, artistic director of The Fountain and author of the wonderful “Bakersfield Mist” knows how tell a story and to entertain while getting messages across.
For this production, The Fountain has been re-configured as theater in the round. The floor is covered with the decomposed granite typical of the Mojave. It is a barren, hostile looking land. Brian Tichnell embodies the driven young geek, high on himself, convinced his enthusiasm is enough to pull anyone his way. His god is science. Elizabeth Frances does not quite have the authenticity to stand up to Tichnell’s characterization. Part of the imbalance is a function of Cameron Watson’s direction. Roy is a strong enough character, The Fountain is a small enough house, and Sachs’ writing is tight enough, there is no need for Roy to perform at such a gut-splitting pitch.
“Dream Catchers” is not perfect, but it is very good. Were the acting more balanced, the cultural conflict would be as well. The final scene puts it all in balance.