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Wakey, Wakey

From 35 critic and 130 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Disappointing, Absorbing

About the show

Signature Theatre presents a thought-provoking new play about some of life's biggest questions, written and directed by Obie winner Will Eno ('The Realistic Jones'). Starring Emmy winner Michael Emerson ('Lost'). More…

What are we here for? Is time a friend or an enemy? Do we all eventually end up in the same place, but take different routes to get there? 'Wakey, Wakey' challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures. (All of which might sound dreary, but there’s a chance this will be a really good experience.) Inspired in part by the playwright-director's friendship with the late James Houghton, Signature Theatre's founder. 


"'Wakey, Wakey' is Will Eno at his surreal, troubling, beautiful best, a play both challenging and easily absorbed. He truly approaches the unapproachable: the meaning of life." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“Eno and Emerson achieve a stunning feat, compelling an audience of strangers to deeply mourn the loss of a man who is not only a stranger but a fiction…Perhaps this is in part because Eno’s clever script, paired with Emerson’s oh-so-human performance, entwines the intimate and the universal…‘Wakey, Wakey’ is a truly great play, one that reasserts the unique power of theatre...You'll want to recapture the heart-bursting, life-affirming feeling again and again." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“An experience that is intimate, moving, and surprisingly entertaining...Emerson’s portrayal of the dying man has a weighted serenity…Death is imminent in this oddly funny play…It is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking as the pleasant party host's final moment comes…Eno's direction of his own script is tender, precise, and robust at all the right moments...It has the potential to be the most moving experience one could have in a theatre." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“A mysterious and ultimately deeply moving play…It features an actor delivering a mesmerizing monologue that plays with your mind and ultimately with your heart...A play about death that ultimately celebrates life in both a profound and light-hearted way (I won’t spoil the joyous, revelatory last few moments)." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Eno has never shied away from the existential or phenomenological. His greatest skill may well be his ability to dramatize them...Emerson's wide eyes and wry tone are a natural match for Eno’s crisp, energetic language, oscillating between calm certainty and sad resignation...Eno's strategy is usually to evoke one emotion and then its opposite, to jostle us from one end of the spectrum to another until we can’t tell them apart...I believe 'Wakey, Wakey' strikes that perfect calibration." Full Review

On Stage Blog

"Emerson doesn't disappoint. He's perfectly suited for Eno's perfectly 'normal' dialogue contained in what appears to be a well-made play but actually makes you question the whole form and shape of a theatrical experience altogether...This play was simply a rich, beautiful experience filled with thoughtfulness and mystery...Here are five solid reasons why you should see 'Wakey, Wakey:' 1) Will Eno 2) Life 3) Death 4) Gratitude 5) It sticks to your ribs." Full Review

Paste Magazine

"The production itself is excellent. Emerson commands the play’s short running time without really physically moving at all...But Eno (directing his own work for the first time) is the star of 'Wakey Wakey,; and he’s at his most achingly, triumphantly humanist here...Eno has, in this wonderful, wonderful play, actually struck on something resembling a satisfying answer to death, buried somewhere in the knowledge that we live a million rebirths in even the smallest of gifts we leave behind." Full Review

The New York Times

"Dying is a stand-up routine in 'Wakey, Wakey,' the glowingly dark, profoundly moving new play by Will Eno. Portrayed with a master’s blend of pretty much every emotion there is by Michael Emerson, the monologuist at the center of this short, resonant tragicomedy is the M.C. of his own demise...The astonishment of Mr. Emerson’s performance is how universal and particular it is, saying that, yes, we all die, but we all die as individuals." Full Review

Time Out New York

“A quietly beautiful piece…Eno knows that there are only so many ways of saying, ‘You will die; celebrate life,’ so he makes a spectacle of vamping and false starts, awkward yet deeply felt pauses, as the keen, funny, transfixing Emerson reads from index cards, gets his slides confused and bathes the audience in his gentle, beatific fussiness...You know how great actors have the ability to age decades right before your eyes? That happens here, and it's a pure astonishment.” Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Eno’s effective but terribly sad play...Emerson’s performance is remarkable. What he does will leave you deeply moved. As the end approaches his face is wracked with a combination of pain, bewilderment and fatalism, all fused to poignant dramatic effect. The author, who also is the director, energizes the play with projections...'Wakey, Wakey' is highly sensitive theater that may touch raw nerves...On the other hand, it can also provide a note of courage and understanding." Full Review


"'Wakey, Wakey' struck me as indebted equally to two Irishmen, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce...His subjects are death, existence and the meaning of life. This near monologue is delivered with exquisite, deliberate conviction by Michael Emerson in a voice at once quizzical and confessional, an irresistible combination. Big ones, these questions, though delivered with a kind of innocence Beckett mostly abjured but that Joyce could take delight in." Full Review


"A work of humor, humanity and grace that makes you want to hug your lover, your neighbor and maybe an usher on the way out. It also offers a captivating, playful and deeply moving performance by Michael Emerson...Eno breaks the fourth wall but here he also suggests a wondrous fifth: a world beyond the memories of the past and the realities of the present and towards the inevitable adjustment nature demands. It’s a loving transition, theatrically told in a style that is Eno’s own." Full Review

Daily Beast

"If that sounds tricky to watch and baffling, it is—and yet you hang on every word...Eno by not making the story or Guy easy to comprehend makes it that much more engrossing. Sometimes, just when it feels too slight, Eno inserts a piece of mischievous whimsy, or sharp observation, or, at one point, the sudden, mournful strains of 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'...An unexpectedly uplifting play." Full Review

City Cabaret

"Will Eno's elegant and gently sad 75-minute play...Although Guy's stream-of-consciousness monologue comes in a disjointed start-and-stop way, it is surprisingly illuminating...Production values are stellar...Emerson is remarkable as Guy, a likable and reflective man whose nuanced facial expressions reflect amusement as well as the stings of discomfort, pain, thirst...We leave the theater touched by the spirit of Guy and his words." Full Review


"Never morbid, it is surprisingly illuminating and insightful, even revelatory...Sensitively directed by the playwright...I suspect those who are familiar with Eno's plays will find that 'Wakey, Wakey' is his most easily embraced and most deliberately accessible...The press release has this hopeful line: '..there's a chance this will be a really good experience.' It was...and more." Full Review

The Arts Fuse

“Though it may seem to be a mediation on death, ‘Wakey, Wakey’ is really a celebration of life...Without being maudlin, or resorting to clichés and affirmations, Guy involves us in his compelling contemplation of mortality. Emerson’s casual, beautifully paced performance, as well as Eno’s sharp writing, make for a hypnotic duo. The ending is a spectacle that leaves the audience with a huge collective grin.” Full Review

New York Daily News

“Death becomes Will Eno, writer and director of this odd but gently urgent play…Played by Michael Emerson with a magnetic open-hearted humor, we stay connected even when the going gets curious. And it does...Guy takes stock and shares a little advice. 'Take care of each other,' he says. Playing an aide, January LaVoy arrives late to do that. We should be so lucky as to have someone who radiates as much warmth as this actress does when time’s up." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The hook that reels us into this abstruse, tricky, stream-of-consciousness contemplation of mortality is a beautiful performance from Michael Emerson...While the thematic richness of 'Wakey, Wakey' creeps up on you during its brief 75-minute run time, few will make the claim that this is a major addition to Eno's distinctive body of work...Nevertheless, Eno's unique voice — quizzical, perceptive, assertively compassionate — is one to be celebrated." Full Review


"'Wakey, Wakey' isn’t really a play. It’s an accounting of the things that matter in life...Presented with quiet authority and a soft, ironic humor by the remarkable Michael Emerson, observations that might otherwise seem random, and sentimental, coalesce into a painful but brave last embrace of ordinary pleasures...The evening gains additional poignancy if you see it as Eno’s tribute to James Houghton, the founder and artistic director of the Signature Theatre." Full Review

Village Voice

“Eno knows that his approach, resolutely shirking conventional expectations, will infuriate some theatergoers. His previous works in this gnomic vein (‘Thom Pain,’ ‘Title and Deed’) left me uninfuriated but also unenthusiastic. But ‘Wakey Wakey's’ sharp writing, heightened by the easygoing asperity of Emerson's performance, stirs deeper feelings. Granted, the truth it conveys is small, rarefied, and overly hedged with decorative distractions. Even so, it's genuine." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Eno's most accomplished and affecting piece to date...As long as Emerson and LaVoy hold the stage, a mood of deep, possibly profound feeling pervades the auditorium. But the playwright is either too hobbled by irony or too afraid of the darkness not to spike the action with overly cute bits of business...Eno's world continues to seem like Existentialism Lite. Emerson is the real thing, however; the look in his eyes as he fades away says more than the play's complete text." Full Review


"His thoughts seem to wander every which way...but when you take a closer look, they're as focused as a laser beam...Even after Lisa enters the picture, Eno's dialogue remains stilted and aloof. It serves the play's purposes—and could not be given a more naturalistic performance than the one Emerson is delivering. But if you require peaks and valleys of drama to keep you engaged in a story, you may get sleepy within 'Wakey, Wakey's' microscopic modulations and extended silences." Full Review

Edge New York

"It all can amount to too much in the end, however. Even with the talents of Emerson and Lavoy to guide the production, the play still struggles in its tonal shifts, overreaching in its attempts to bridge its moments of cynicism and fear with its tender moments of redemption. Eno undoubtedly loves to show his hand in this play, but sometimes it is that very hand that obstructs our view...But all that isn't to say that 'Wakey, Wakey' doesn't have its moments; in fact, it has plenty." Full Review

New York Theater

"I did like it better than anything else I’ve seen by Eno...With gentle humor and a lack of fussiness, Michael Emerson manages to woo us through the deliberate vagueness, starts and stops, and meta interruptions of his monologue...Much of what Eno’s script is trying to induce about the celebration and uncertainty of life and death has been done better and with more clarity elsewhere...But Eno the playwright is well served in 'Wakey Wakey' by Eno the director, and by Emerson and LaVoy." Full Review


“Emerson makes for appealing company and Eno's meandering text has its cute and funny moments. Checking out some Guy's childhood photos and hearing his thoughts about a distant siren are actually more amusing than they sound. But there's also a redundant meta quality that gets tiresome.” Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if you appreciate excellent acting and a thought provoking play.Michael Emerson is brilliant.

Don't see it if you don't want to contemplate the end of your life.

Absorbing, Great writing, Great staging, Must see, Masterful

See it if you care about wonderful writing (deep, poignant, moving, life-affirming, smart) & if you want to see wonderful actors beautifully directed

Don't see it if you don't like to think and feel

Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you like Will Eno's writing, enjoy pop-philosophy, or life-affirming silliness.

Don't see it if you want a fast-moving plot, action/adventure, or have a strong dislike of free light snacks.

Contemplative, Intelligent, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You love Michael Emerson and have been yearning to see him on the stage since Gross Indecencies. You want to experience a moving piece.

Don't see it if You get impatient with plays that don't connect dots clearly. You have lost someone recently--this can be cathartic or bring you to tears.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you want to encounter a masterful performance by Michael Emerson in Will Eno's elegantly-crafted, poignant rumination on a life's ending

Don't see it if you need clear narrative; if you get impatient with elliptical monologues; if you want the ending to match the beginning...

Absorbing, Great acting, Clever, Edgy

See it if You enjoy complex plays , out of the ordinary with excellent acting.

Don't see it if Do you not see if you only enjoy lite musicals or plays.

Intelligent, moving, funny, sad, wonderful writing & performance

See it if you can enjoy engaging w/ elusive monologue, Eno & Emerson will guide you through a sweet, quirky meditation on gratitude, life and its end

Don't see it if you prefer a play with plot and impermeable fourth wall

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like Eno's work. Like thinking about life's essential questions. Enjoy pondering and excellent acting.

Don't see it if Need action. Are bored by a meditation on our humanness. Don't want to think.

Also All Eno. Delightful ending.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Enchanting, Great writing

See it if if you like innovative plays that are ostensibly about one thing, but are actually about something very different.

Don't see it if you enjoy traditional plays that do not challenge you to think about a topic in a totally different way.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Riveting

See it if You can imagine being at the intersection of theater and a workshop on end of life - both didactic and experiential. Extremely wise, funny.

Don't see it if You shy away from "big question" plays, want to miss a remarkable performance by Emerson who "dies" in increments before your very eyes. Go!

Also There is so much sweetness and wisdom to be found here, and even humor... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You are ready to face how the end of life affects us physically, emotionally, and mentally. If you are alone, this will be more disturbing.

Don't see it if You recently faced a serious illness or had someone close to you pass away. Are afraid of being alone.

Also Michael Emerson is amazing as the lead!!... Read more Read less

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see a magnetic performer, Michael Emerson. He is fantastic. You like to contemplate the big questions in life.

Don't see it if You love neatly plotted theatrical experiences that are all tied up in a bow at the end. This is "experimental" theater at it's best.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Delightful

See it if Love Drama

Don't see it if No reason not to see it

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Profound

See it if You enjoy a quirky perspective on deep matters, enjoy sensory experiences

Don't see it if You are emotionally impacted by death or aging

Creative, Intriguing, Powerful, Thought-provoking, Emotionally touching

See it if You're open to untraditional approaches to theater, and if you are interested in artful exploration of the meaning of life an death.

Don't see it if You are looking for a large-scale show with a clear plot based on characters' relationships and conflicts--this show is nearly a monologue.

Also Go with a friend. The end of the show will offer you some great inspir... Read more Read less

Clever, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful

See it if You want to reflect of the meaning of life and death in an original way!!! A must see!!!

Don't see it if You like traditional plays

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You are of a certain age and thoughts of mortality run through your head.

Don't see it if You want plot, dialogue, scenery, singing, dancing and you are so young you think you are immortal.

Also I went with two friends. One was bored but thought a lot about the sho... Read more Read less

Great acting, Profound, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if Eno's existential 'stand-up' about the end of a man's life Michael Emerson quite extraordinary as Guy with a moving LeVoy as the 'caretaker'

Don't see it if Eno is an 'acquired taste' Piece can be a bit slow & too quirky for some & Eno's choices as director a bit too twee but often very moving

Clever, Delightful, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if you love Will Eno's other work and thought-provoking, intelligent theatre

Don't see it if you don't like plays with steam of consciousness dialogue and long pauses.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if A short, intermissionless and not highly structured play about how we live our lives and die our deaths appeals to you.

Don't see it if You don't think the play I described above sounds very appealing.

Also I thought it was terrific -- had never seen a Will Eno play before and... Read more Read less

Clever, Quirky, Slow, Intelligent, Hopeful

See it if you like Eno's particular brand of quirky intelligence and warm humor.

Don't see it if You are not mentally and physically alert, you dislike Beckett.

Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if You are of a certain age, have lost someone recently, or are open to reviewing/summing up your time here with a talented gracious host.

Don't see it if You just want to be entertained. You have no interest in spending a very, very long, quiet 70 minutes where you might be confused.

Great acting, Quirky, Slow, Thought-provoking, Interesting

See it if You're a fan of Michael Emerson from LOST & Person of Interest since the show is mostly him. You don't mind a slower pace.

Don't see it if You do not want to think about death or dying or what a life means as you're living it rather than towards the end of it.

Intelligent, Relevant, Ambitious

See it if you want to reflect on a different approach to the subject matter

Don't see it if if you do not enjoy something a bit more abstract

Funny, Quirky, Ambitious, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you think you might die someday.

Don't see it if you are worried you might die someday.

Cast & Creatives (10)