By Kyle Price-Livingston
I don’t sleep much, usually about 3 hours a night. It isn’t insomnia, exactly, it’s just that I’m a lot more productive in the evenings than I am in the mornings. My wife goes to bed a good 3 hours before I do most nights. I tuck her in at night and cuddle for a few minutes (who doesn’t love cuddling?) but I don’t stay, because the restless hours I would then spend tossing and turning actually ended up keeping both of us up longer, made us both grumpy, and resulted in a lot of conversations like the ones that drive Before We Go To Sleep.
Created and written by Darin Anthony and directed by Stephen Serpas, Before We Go To Sleep is a series of bedtime conversations between a husband and wife who aren’t quite ready to confront the fact that they’re in an unhappy marriage. Greta (Elizabeth Greer) and Phil (Rob Nagle) have a six year old daughter, and they clearly love each other, but those are pretty much they only things they have going for them. Neither is employed, but neither is excited by the idea of finding a job, either.
Greta is an insomniac whose worsening dependance upon pills and alcohol to get her through the night is obviously a symptom of her own deep unhappiness. She is unfulfilled in her role as a stay-at-home mom, and clearly misses the structure of work life, but her depression and anxiety are preventing her from figuring out how to get her life back on track. Phil feels trapped in both his marriage and his role as the main breadwinner, to the point that he experiences a sort of early onset midlife crisis and decides to start a new life as a woods guide in Colorado. Whether his wife and daughter will be a part of that life is left up in the air.
This information is communicated through a series of short scenes taking place late at night as the two struggle for intimacy (and sleep). Anthony is able to pack a ton of subtext into each brief line of dialogue, and Greer and Nagle do a fabulous job of conveying it. I was particularly struck by Greer’s ability to express emotional pain physically. You can see every molecule of her body reacting to the growing void between herself and her husband.
This show should be required watching for anyone thinking about making a “two people in an apartment” type series (which is seemingly everyone these days). The show has only 2 cast members and only 2 locations that I noticed (and the second location is only used for about 30 seconds) but the drama doesn’t flag for a moment. I think the difference between this and other series is that for this series, the repeated use of the same set adds to the overarching theme of two people trapped in limbo, whereas for many other shows it’s just a matter of convenience. Intention may not be the soul of art, but it makes a difference in the final outcome.