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').

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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. 

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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


“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

New York Magazine / Vulture

"A rambling monologue of no apparent consequence...But then, halfway through, the tone flips...I felt my hostility toward the first half of 'Wakey, Wakey,' with all its dull cuteness, beginning to melt, and I wondered if this was part of the play’s design...Partly that’s because January LaVoy is so radiantly warm onstage...As Guy, Michael Emerson, though technically excellent, cannot get so far with his character, or not at any rate with Eno fussing over him as director." 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


"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

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

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

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

Front Row Center

"Emerson does not disappoint. Would that the material itself held up as well...Eno goes deep, not wide...Guy meanders through his thoughts with precision if not clarity...For me the question is–to what destination?...Eno writes with sly winks and nods and intellectual forays thither and yon. It can be a pleasure to listen to, especially in the hands of Emerson...In the end, however, there is not enough 'there' there on which you can hang your hat." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The highly lauded Eno...has a gift for unusual situations and quirkily delightful dialogue, and he knows how to get laughs with verbal surprises, but in 'Wakey, Wakey,' he offers little new or revelatory about the human condition. And, while conflict is a standard ingredient in most plays, you won't find much of it here...Its acting and production elements score highly, but while some visitors will certainly be touched others are likely to find 'Wakey, Wakey' too wishy-washy for their tastes." 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

Talkin' Broadway

“Michael Emerson plows his way through the typical litany of interchangeable Eno bits…It's as fine and thoughtful a portrayal as Guy could receive. The shtick gets tiresome quickly, though. Not because it's not funny, but because it ignores the reality of this specific world…Around its edges, however, ‘Wakey, Wakey’ evinces more discipline than Eno has displayed in years. It's overlain with a resigned sadness about aging and decaying.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“‘Wakey, Wakey’ is about death, life and the things in between and in all honesty we’ve heard it all before...Basically the whole plot is to enjoy the little things in life. Emerson is wonderful in the role, but the play is monotonous…Will Eno also directed this and he does his play an injustice. Maybe another director could have added life into this piece instead of oblivion.” 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


"'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

Front Mezz Junkies

"Even though I patiently waited, hoping to get some insight as to why we were gathered here, it never came to me...Eno has said of his work that one shouldn’t come to his plays expecting tidy resolutions, clearly drawn narrative arcs or characters. And if that is his purpose here, he has succeeded...If there is pleasure to be had from 'Wakey Wakey,' it may be in the game of guessing what that was all about. For this theatre junkie, 'Wakey Wakey' put me to sleep." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"The only possible reason to catch it is the all-too-rare opportunity to see Michael Emerson back on stage. No one does misery better than Emerson, and he certainly has cause to be miserable here...To me, the final moments came across as a desperate attempt by the playwright-director to distract the audience from the inadequacy of all that preceded it. I posit that under the pressure of owing Signature a new play, this was the best that Eno could throw together." Full Review

The Wrap

"Emerson’s remarkably spontaneous performance suggests Pee-Wee Herman after a stroke, as if he’s making up the words on the spot. What better impression can an actor give us? What’s great for an actor, however, is not so wonderful for a playwright...Writing about death should not create this much dead air in the theater...Even with a running time of 75 minutes, 'Wakey, Wakey' inspires wristwatch-checking in the dark like few other plays you will see this year." 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' 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

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

Broadway & Me

“Michael Emerson does a fine job conveying the mixture of apprehension, bewilderment and remorse Guy is experiencing. Bill,and many others in our audience were totally moved by his textured performance. But the moments dragged for me and confirmed my suspicion that (after having seen five of his plays) I'm just not an Eno gal.” Full Review


"'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


"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

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Profound, Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if if you're a fan of Michael Emerson or enjoy Will Eno's sensibilities. To see January LaVoy's glowing stage presence.

Don't see it if don't care for Will Eno's works. Another dry rehash of life as seen as it's nearing the end in a rambling tedious monologue.

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

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

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Resonant, Great staging

See it if It may be gone, but Will Eno's play was deeply felt and very moving. Beautifully played by Michael Emerson and the oh-so-comforting

Don't see it if January LaVoy (memorable also in TWO TRAINS RUNNING at Signature Theatre as well). Emerson...superb and tragic. A most effecting play!

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Inane, Rambling

See it if existentialist, meaningful

Don't see it if meaningless, rambling

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

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

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You have no choice

Don't see it if You have a chice

Disappointing, Insipid, Slow

See it if You are depressed

Don't see it if You are depressed

Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Slow

See it if existential theater or themes of end-of-life are of interest to you or if Eno or Emerson are people you love.

Don't see it if you are already tired or are in an emotional rut. It's a bit of a slog that will have you thinking though.

Banal, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if u r in a better mood than apparently I was. I found it trite, trying too hard, unsophisticated and self-indulgent. Tho loved Realistic Jones

Don't see it if you have anything else to do.

Great acting, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if Dreary and soporific are your cup of tea

Don't see it if You fall asleep relatively easily in the theater, you know someone with Parkinson's disease, you want to enjoy yourself at the theater

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

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if you want to be reminded that you should live your life to the fullest.

Don't see it if growing older bothers you.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you enjoy short, but slow plays that are quite meditative and thought-provoking. Deep with some funny moments. Great acting by Emerson.

Don't see it if you want to see a play with a clear narrative and more action, you don't like long monologues or minimal movement and staging

Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Slow, 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.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Cliched

See it if you like watching paint dry and listening to fingernails scratch on a chalkboard.

Don't see it if you value your time, you prefer a plot, or you require at least some new insight or thought.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Masterful, 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...

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you are a masochist.

Don't see it if you want to see a good play.

Underwritten, Astonishing michael emerson, Resonant but slow, Ultimately hopeful

See it if A tiny play (but a long one-acter) about the biggest questions. The tension between life & death and between being connected & individual...

Don't see it if ...with a serving of life's pleasures delivered by YouTube, combine for a somewhat slow but never treacly or cranky look at the inevitable.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in how one man approaches life and death. Very thoughtful dialogue. Captivated by the energy driven by the inevitable.

Don't see it if You aren't introspective about yourself, much less have to listen to someone else's AHA moments.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Relevant

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

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound, Resonant, Slow

See it if you enjoy one-man shows (there is a second character at the end), or existential/philosophical works.

Don't see it if you need action--any action at all. This show is mostly just a single man sitting and talking about life.

Also The dialogue is deeply thoughtful and feels like a stream of conscious... Read more Read less

Clever, Edgy

See it if January LaVoy a great talent is wasted in a 15 minute role, The Meaning of Life seems to be overdone. A diifernet approach here.

Don't see it if Not sure if I would say :See It' but I was impressed gy the short performance og Ms. La Voy

Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if Beautifully acted by Emerson but an overwrought approach to the problems of living and dying. Will Eno is gifted but this didn't work .

Don't see it if despite Eno's talent this approach to these profound mysteries of life and death don''t move you.

Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you enjoy quirky works that are more about asking questions and putting you in the headspace of a character than... plot or action

Don't see it if you don't have patience for indulgent writing or meandering monologuing.

Cast & Creatives (10)