Preview: Sleeper at Available Light Theatre

Jay Weitz, Columbus Alive

A kidnapping near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A conservative TV talk show host. A medical consultant trying to improve health care in the U.S. An Afghani Muslim living in London. If the subjects in playwright David Ian Lee's "Sleeper" seem to be ripped from the headlines, that's OK with Available Light Theatre.

"Last year, in planning for this season, the AVLT company members read about 30 plays, and we were becoming really dismayed," recalled Artistic Director Matt Slaybaugh. "Everything we were reading was so conventional and stultifying."

"Sleeper" was different. "It's an emotionally powerful play that asks difficult questions," said Slaybaugh, who's directing the Available Light production. "All of those themes are present in the very human stories David is telling, … but really it's a play about the mixed blessings of families, the difficulties of love and marriage, and the quests that all these characters are on for better, more meaningful lives."

Lee structured "Sleeper" into two acts. The first involves 20 characters in 18 brief scenes. The second concentrates on five characters dealing with the aftermath of Act One.

Slaybaugh said the cast savors the play's "juicy dialogue … sharp one-liners and fiery speeches and complex arguments driven by passionate needs and wants."

Consider "Sleeper" Available Light's antidote to convention and stultification.

Columbus Performing Arts Center

Feb. 16-25

549 Franklin Ave., Downtown