Adapted by Nigel Williams
Directed by Halena Kays
At Steppenwolf Theatre’s Upstairs Theatre
Cautionary tale of how our humanity can quickly disintegrate an eye-opener
Long a stable of high school curriculum, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies comes to life on the Upstairs stage at Steppenwolf Thatatre as part of their ‘For Young Adults‘ series that offers daytime performances for high schoolers as well as matinees and evening public performances. Under the visceral and manic direction by Halena Kays, the game cast of twelve young actors deftly play preadolescence middle schoolers marooned on a deserted island during wartime after their airplane crashed.
As they explore the island, Ralph (Spencer Curnutt) emerges as the natural leader due to his commanding maturity. He is helped by Piggy (Dan Smeriglo), a nerdy over weight bespectacled boy. They use a conch shell’s horn sound to call all the surviving boys to a summit. Once the entire group is collected they begin to flaunt their new found freedom since there are no adults to tell them what to do. That is a major departure from the strictness of their English schools.
With typical rough housing and hyper games expected from children, these boys slowly realize that they are in charge of their own lives. The eventually split into two groups or tribes; one bent on finding a way to survive and maintain until rescued while the other resorts to their primal instincts. It is civilized behavior versus savagery as the violent hunter instincts dominate a group led by Jack ( Ty Olwin), who becomes the charismatic leader of the rival tribe, with Rudy Galvan’s sadistic Roger urging him on.
The two tribes turn games into a vicious battle for power fueled by their mutual fear of “the monster’ that seems to lurking about the island. The amazingly hyper staging with eerie lighting (by J.R. Lederle) and the terrific sound design ( by Mike Tutaj) and explosive fight choreography (designed by Ryan Bourque) gave the production an deeply felt emotional center that vividly demonstrated the conflicting human impulses of each boy. This allegorical tale seemed a tad too condensed since the transition from normal children into extreme tribes seemed to happen in a few days or so. Only the dirtying and torn clothes marked the time passage. I’m wondering if the young students who have not read the book version of Flies will realize that things didn’t happen in a day or two?
During the 90 minute production, we witness how some boys can go wild and play to their most base instincts. We see how a contemporary flash mob or football game rivalries can elicit the group savage instincts in youths like these English boys did. That potential wildness impulse is explored vividly that hopefully the youths who see this timely production will begin to understand. They learn that such violence is not just a game as these English boys proclaim upon being rescued.
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For more info checkout the Lord of the Flies page at theatreinchicago.com
At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago, Il call 312-335-1650, tickets for public $20, www.steppenwolf.org, Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through November 15, 2013