Tito Livas and Cassie Stokes-Wylie performing live on stage during Salt Lake Acting Company's Sleeping Giant.

Sleeping Giant: A Supernatural Tale About Change and the Unknown

Performance & Theatre

The familiar, small lobby of Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) was filled with patrons, and excitement filled the air around me as I was seated in my home away from home to watch Sleeping Giant. Looking around, I see some familiar faces of cast members of previous shows that I’ve attended at SLAC.

My last time at SLAC was for a show involving the marriage of the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the creative minds of the production company and cast which created a well-rounded, enjoyable show. That’s why I was delighted to see Sleeping Giant culminate into a chilling tale of a cult-possessed town, something out of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Just like before, I was skeptical to how these intermingling topics of occultism and a failing relationship would be performed on the stage. Once again, I was surprised by how well the two seem to go hand in hand with a touch of SLAC magic.

Still of three cast members in costume from Salt Lake Acting Company's play, Sleeping Giant.
Similar to other SLAC productions, the cast of Sleeping Giant is relatively small, with members of the cast playing various roles throughout the story. Photo Courtesy of Shawn Francis Saunders.

The audience is introduced to Sleeping Giant by playwright Steve Yockey and directors Emilio Casillas and Shawn Francis Saunders. Similar to other SLAC productions, the cast of Sleeping Giant is relatively small, with members of the cast playing various roles throughout the story.

We are introduced to the main protagonists of our harrowing tale, Ryan (Robert Scott Smith) and Alex (Lily Hye Soo Dixon) who’ve been dating for a while. The two are staying at a lakeside house while Ryan’s marriage proposal goes haywire from the sheer amount of fireworks he used for the event.

It seems as though the declaration of love awakened a panic within Alex—and awoke something in the lake: a giant eye to be precise. From then on, strange encounters and paranoid visions fuel various characters.

Each of these stories is represented as interconnecting storylines with an underlying foundation of unease and distress. Two friends Barbara (Cassandra Stokes-Wylie) and Maggie (Dixon) are getting ready to go to lunch when Barbara begins to relay to Maggie that she’s frightened after a strange encounter she had.

A baker (Stokes-Wylie) arrives to some guests (Smith and Tito Livas) with a freshly baked cake but begins to go off in some sort of trance thinking about the lake thing. These may seem like mundane, everyday situations, but each one has a touch of eldritch goo that they just can’t seem to shake, whether it’s from Barbara staring off into the distance and hearing strange voices or one of the guests going into a dream-like state while seeing visual hallucinations, presumably caused by the thing in the lake. 

Every time I see a SLAC show, I’m reminded of how intuitive the set design is. The lake house serves as the main piece of the show with minor prop adjustments to show a change of location. Despite the simplicity, I was able to distinguish each vignette from the last due to the subtle set design and ostensible metamorphosis of the cast on the stage as they take on role after role in succinct fashion. The climax of the show involves a steady flow of water that runs along the stage, completely covering the actors’ feet as the thing in the lake becomes fully realized just outside. 

Sleeping Giant proves what many of us have known all along: We are afraid of the unknown or even change. This can be seen in the reactions of the characters as they come face to face with the subterranean terror. This fear is palpable in the cast’s performances, and one begins to think that this fear is similar to Alex’s hinted fear of taking this next step with Ryan.

Sleeping Giant serves to uplift during its many comedic moments while simultaneously seeping into the crevices of your brain. Throughout our lives, we’re all bound to have our own monster in the lake. –Brittnie Gallegos