Better than real life?

When the real world sucks, you can deal with it — or you can pull a Gary.

When the real world sucks, you can deal with it — or you can pull a Gary.

The lead 20-something character in Central Alberta Theatre’s season-closing play Asylum chooses to live in a fantasy dreamscape.

By shutting his eyes and drifting into slumberland for up to 20 hours at a time, Gary finds he has a measure of control over what happens in this unreal, nocturnal plane. He can date the girl of his dreams, and hopefully find the answer to why he’s unhappy in his waking life.

Director Tara Rorke wanted to direct this surreal black comedy by U.S. playwright Keith Aisner for several years, but didn’t feel it was suitable for the dinner theatres that used to run at the Black Knight Inn.

“When I found out CAT was moving to City Centre Stage, I was so happy, because I thought I can do this play outside of the (dinner theatre) season,” said Rorke, who previously directed the more standard Norm Foster comedy, Outlaw.

CAT patrons are being cautioned that when Asylum opens on Friday, April 27, at the downtown Red Deer venue, it will have strong language and deal with adult themes.

But Rorke hopes many regular CAT theatregoers will still opt to see a production that’s less linear and a little deeper than the usual comedy/farces.

She also hopes Asylum will attract some new, younger theatregoers, expanding CAT’s audience.

“It’s a wonderful, fun play that makes you think.”

One thing viewers could ponder is whether they are happy in their own lives. “If you could sit down and figure out why you aren’t happy, would that make you happy?” asked Rorke.

Gary considers this question in a roundabout way when consulting with God and Satan in his dreams and realizes the answer might not be one he wants to hear.

Rorke added that Asylum goes from being insightful to sharply funny, and even touching.

For instance, when Gary is visited by his mother in his dreams, she’s no longer a schizophrenic who’s been institutionalized since he was six.

Sometimes she acts more like the kind of mother Gary wishes he had, said Rorke.

“In the parts where she sings to Gary, I almost cry — and I don’t cry easily.”

The cast of nine is made up mostly of CAT veterans and RDC students or graduates. Rorke said rehearsals have gone well since she found a replacement for the previous lead actor who had to bow out of the production.

“I have a curse on my shows because I always have a hard time casting the main part,” she said, with a laugh.

While the narcoleptic plot of Asylum might sound like a stretch, Rorke thinks fantasy existences might be on the rise — especially among introverts, who have a hard time meeting real people.

There are chronic gamers, people who spend hours in online chat rooms, or who live vicariously through computer-simulated avatars.

“If your life is very ordinary, fantasy can be so drawing.”