Manbites Dog Theater’s Swansong, Wakey, Wakey, Is a Grand Mix of Beauty and Sorrow, Joy and Fear, Love and Pain and Hope

Derrick Ivey and Lakeisha Coffey star in Wakey, Wakey (photo by Alan Dehmer)
Derrick Ivey and Lakeisha Coffey star in Wakey, Wakey (photo by Alan Dehmer)
Derrick Ivey and Lakeisha Coffey star in <em>Wakey, Wakey</em> (photo by Alan Dehmer)
Derrick Ivey and Lakeisha Coffey star in Wakey, Wakey (photo by Alan Dehmer)

How does a theater company with 31 years’ worth of stellar productions say goodbye to the community? By choosing a show about saying goodbye as their final presentation. Manbites Dog Theater’s rendition of Wakey, Wakey, written by Will Eno and directed by Jeff M. Storer, is a stream-of-consciousness play that draws the audience in right from the opening lines.

Little context is provided for Guy, a man who is dealing with end-of-life issues with about as much grace and coherence as any of us frail humans could hope for. Deftly performed by veteran Triangle actor, director, choreographer, and designer Derrick Ivey, Guy takes us on a journey of self-discovery as time is slowly running out. By turns quirky and mysterious, unsteady and adorable, Ivey masterfully weaves his tale with no “Fourth Wall,” directing most of his internal monologue out to the audience.

The only other character is a woman named Lisa, played with exuberant compassion by Lakeisha Coffey. Is Lisa a Muse? Nurse? Angel? A combination of all three? Like many things in this play, Lisa remains undefined and appears as an interruption at first, but eventually leads Guy and the audience to their destinations.

Don’t mistake Will Eno’s Wakey, Wakey for a somber play, however. The writing is engrossing, the performances draw the audience in, and several lighting and sound effects have the audience crying tears of laughter. For all the weight of the subject matter, the play ends on an unabashedly joyous note; and I walked out of Manbites Dog Theater into the warm evening air with a ridiculous grin on my face.

Manbites Dog’s production of Wakey, Wakey is a grand mix of beauty and sorrow, joy and fear, love and pain and hope. It’s the perfect swansong for Manbites Dog Theater itself.

This show is a gift, and the time to enjoy it — and the wonderful staff and crew of this landmark Triangle theater — is rapidly running out. Extra shows have been added, but are selling out fast, so don’t miss your chance to enjoy this moment in history.

SECOND OPINION: May 24th Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; May 23rd Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2 of 5 stars):, May 14th mini-preview by Brian Howe:, and May 9th mini-preview by Byron Woods:; May 18th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Dustin K. Britt (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars):; May 17th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: and April 28th Roy C. Dicks:; and May 11th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the May 12th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click

Manbites Dog Theater presents WAKEY, WAKEY at 2 p.m. May 27, 8:15 p.m. May 30-June 2, 2 p.m. June 3, 8:15 p.m. June 6-9, and p.m. June 10 at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $12 Wednesday and Thursday and $20 Friday-Sunday, except $6 Wednesday and Thursday and $10 Friday-Sunday for students with ID, and a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or

SHOW: and

2017-18 SEASON:


BLOG (The Upstager):



Wakey, Wakey (2017 Off-Broadway play): (Samuel French, Inc. ), (Signature Theatre web page), and (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (Signature Theatre of New York City).

Will Eno (Brooklyn, NY playwright): (official website), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Jeff M. Storer (Manbites Dog co-founder and artistic director and Duke Theater Studies professor): (Duke Theater Studies bio), (DukeArts profile), and (Facebook page).


Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She also studied dance at San Diego Mesa College and acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and at The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed locally at the Holly Springs Cultural Center in Holly Springs, Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum in Cary. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.