Lord of the Flies – Buzz, Buzz
A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS
“Welcome to Plum Island Infectious Disease Center!” chirps a chipper PR person at the top of Annex’s Lord of the Flies, that old slice of mandatory literature from the High School required reading list (though this is a new adaptation loosely based on the old and involving isolated adults who are acting like children). Her name is Portia (Sarah Lamar), and she’s there to lead on your “three-hour tour” of “the facility”. There’s the obvious, easy Gilligan reference, of course, but there’s actually more of a Jurassic Park thing going on here. Maybe it was the dude in khakis and aviators who appeared to take his job way too seriously. Probably.
Lamar really nails the “communications major” persona. Portia tries her best to be upbeat, even when warning lights go off, quarantining the audience and staff. Dr. Wolfe (Sarah Jacklin), head researcher, is a stickler for form and order, calling meetings, checking off clipboards. Her sidekicks are the married Dr. Eriksems duo (Dave Iden and Maddy Scott), and her nemesis, a wild, untamed researcher named Jackie (Madison Coan). We’ve been placed on lock-down, code 42A. We watch as the staff attempt to follow protocol, figure out what went could have possibly gone wrong and fix that thing ASAP. Of course, much like the site of any other major disaster, you have the members of the press (Maura Dwyer and Ren Pepitone) crawling around. I don’t think it would be too much of a spoiler to say that corruption and chaos do indeed ensue before order finds its way back to the facility. There were some greeeeat creepy moments too that I really won’t spoil except to say that the audience is left deliciously aghast, several times. As you’ve guessed, this version of the story references the plot of the novel, but branches off into its own entity. For those of you that are fans of Golding [Blech. – TBO], there are some smart nods (“Sucks to your pigs”) for nostalgic purposes.
This Flies is an immersive experience, and, from the press passes at the door to the surprise ending, you are a part of the play. Even the reconfiguring of the space by set designer Rick Gerriets maximizes the audience/stage contact. One of the biggest accomplishment here, for me, is the fact that this work is director-less. So a play about the breakdown of society is founded and developed by the very cooperation of those depicting chaos. As the program states: “similar procedures and structural dynamics-very different outcome.” Indeed. You have to get used to some tonally odd moments, like when Simon (Jacob Budenz) -remember Simon?- launches into a lecture on Coconut Crabs (as Simon continues at three separate intervals with his story, it paints him a different, dramatic life, isolate from his counterparts, and the bit becomes a wonderful moment of catharsis for escalating mayhem, a reference point for the themes and symbolism found in the book). Budenz’s acting is spot on, detached yet loving, juvenile but responsible, hesitant and also a bit clairvoyant. I was so intrigued I wanted to pull out my cell phone to check the accuracy of his talk (I didn’t, I’m not That Kind Of Patron, my companion Googled it on the way home).
The standout, though, is Rjyan Kidwell as Roger, the Top Gun inspired security guard who is Jackie’s right hand man. His swagger, expressions, and one-liners are fantastic. At one point there is a debate about whether to take away cell phones and he retorts: “They use their smartphones on the shitter, you know.” Dave Iden and Maddy Scott get some laughs as the meticulous researchers who go so far as to schedule their intimacies. Madison Coan does a nice loose cannon with flaring nostrils, dismissive hand gestures, and a few hate- fueled taunts. And Lamar gets into it as Portia descends into the madness and allows the stress to overcome her, hurling insults as that perky receptionist mold breaks apart.
Projections (video team member Sonya Norko) work seamlessly. When characters exit on their way to other locations in the facility, we follow them via images thrown onto the back of office cubicles. Dance moves, choreographed by Coan, integrate nicely and symbolize some of the more ritualistic scenes from the novel, though the program rather disappointingly promises “twerking and K Pop”. There was techno pop, but I missed the twerking I do love a good rump shake. Light design team Evan Moritz and Faith Bocian perform their duties without event (I liked the warning lights that flash periodically, reminding us of our status).
THE BOTTOM LINE: Annex does art-fueled theater right, serving complex adaptations washed in their unique perspective. I think I might be becoming a groupie [It happens, just don’t let it go too far, I’m not bailing you out again, Pandora. – TBO] This Lord of the Flies is an intense evening. It manages to be both modern and intriguing while maintaining clear connections to the source material. Compelling, beautifully performed, captivatingly conceived. Once again, Annex delivers.
Running at The Annex Theater until August 7th.
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