History, Her Story, and Their Story Square Off in Dream Hou$e

It’s a game show, a demolition, and a snapshot of grief. Also, it’s a very funny play. Welcome to the Dream Hou$e. Washington Ensemble Theatre’s production runs through 9/25. 


Name your price /
This is too much /
It’s the last sacrifice you’ll ever have to make.

A real, gritty family history like this?
It’s the kind of story I’ve always wanted to tell.

One house, two sisters, and everything on the line.
I’m your host, Tessa Westbrook,
And this is ‘Flip It & List It’!


Where do you reach to find your history? Is it all in your mind and the stories passed from the living? Does it reside most tangibly in physical things and visitable places? Does truth extend only to that which has been documented, verified independently, and is findable to others? 

In Dream Hou$e, two sisters discover that attempting to get top dollar for their childhood home in an area that’s passed them by (it’s “only valuable if we leave”) means grappling with their histories as well. A family tale sprinkled with magical realism, ruminations, and infighting takes a form outside of the norm, as third, fourth, and fifth characters are introduced: a reality TV show host, the cameras, and the walls of the house itself. 

We’re welcomed inside their “gorgeous heritage home,” built by hand by their great-grandfather (maybe), and then listen as the sisters champion its sturdy, classic construction and relay memories shared in each room. We watch as the sisters clear out the family’s things while the TV crew adds their own authentic touches (a cactus here, a burro statue there, some sombrero-sporting family photos and colorful Dia De Los Muertos skull art over there). We listen intently along with the sisters as the host describes just how many walls need to be knocked down — and how much it’ll be worth to them. Everything is either a sly “nothing’s changing!” reassurance or a doom-music-filled Big Reveal

All the while, thanks to a bit of magical realism inserted by playwright Eliana Pipes, the sisters can freeze the whole process while they converse (and argue) amongst themselves, with the others none the wiser. They control the pace, the discussion, and the “progress” toward the dream flip. Until they don’t. 

The sparring and alliance changes among the three leads and steady pacing from director Suz Pontillo keeps the show a gripping one. With belief already suspended, it’s much easier to go where this tale takes us. And buy-in is easy, first because we care about the characters, but also because it’s easy to see that what’s happening there — as heritage homes get brought into the perimeter (and development zone) of the ever-bloating “cool” neighborhoods — is also happening here. It’s not hard to see why WET picked this show for Seattle audiences. 

So when elder sister Patricia gets trapped in a parallel sequence in which she’s asked, cajolingly, just how much she’s willing to give up, the absurd progression feels all too real. How much does Whiteness long to claim the accoutrements and exoticism of The Other? How much is a sheen of success worth to those who have worked toward it for generations? How much dignity, and legacy, and history, must be shed? And what’s wrong with giving up those things to get ahead, anyway? 

Or as younger sister Julia puts it: “Why does having a ‘heritage’ mean we have to be poor?” 

Ultimately, all of those decision points are personal. Dream Hou$e doesn’t try to dictate any clear answers, because there are none. But it pokes at all the right questions, just as surely as it pokes at what lies beneath the Sheetrock on the family dwelling’s walls. 

With its absurdist TV show setup and sharp back-and-forth lines, Dream Hou$e is a very funny play. But grappling with it afterwards can be a very hard and personal thing. Anyone who’s sat with a dying loved one, or sat with a loved one’s absence, or wondered at their own void of history, or its erasure, will have feelings with this play. Those who don’t might instead think about why, and what privilege, that is. 


In lighter news, the Dream Hou$e program notes, “In an unlikely departure from WET’s usual practices, it does NOT include fog, haze, strobes, or smoking on stage.” Some Dreams do come true! 

Dream Hou$e is performed by Antonieta Carpio (Julia), Adriana Hillas (Patricia), and Holly Vander Hyde (Tessa); with Ayla Wallace, Cassidy Mitchell, and William Johnson (TV show crew). Choreographed by Zara Martina Lopez. Designed by Bella Rivera (scenic), Hannah Gibbs (lighting and projections), Elana Lessing (props), Andi Villegas (sound), and Fantasia Rose (costumes). 

Dream Hou$e from Washington Ensemble Theatre runs through 9/25 at 12th Avenue Arts on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Tickets are $17-$49 (sliding scale) hereAccessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall; there is one single-stall, gender-neutral, accessible restroom near the theatre entrance. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible. Captioned performances in English on 9/24 (matinee), and Spanish on 9/17 & 9/24 (evenings). Pay-what-you-choose performance on 9/17 (evening).

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of