Steppenwolf for Young Adults presents LORD OF THE FLIES.
With his first published novel, LORD OF THE FLIES, William Goldring became an iconic writer. His book about teenage boys forced to establish a civilization continues to be a shocker for new generations of readers. He examines human nature challenged by puberty in a chaperone-free zone. Goldberg’s memorable illustrations make today’s fraternity hazing seem like polite society in comparison. LORD OF THE FLIES is a gruesome read. And Director Halena Kays twists gruesome into a viscerally, disturbing experience.
The upstairs theatre is set up traverse style with two parallel walls of seating. The stage is the alley in the middle. The show starts out slow as the playful Spencer Curnutt (Ralph) encounters the quirky Dan Smeriglio (Piggy). Following their meet up, the stage gradually fills with the other ten castaways. My initial thought was that the size of the cast is too ambitious for the production. Introductions are stilted. When an ensemble member isn’t talking, they look like uncomfortable props. I’m worried that I won’t be able to recognize who is who because everyone is fairly similar. Well, first impressions can be mistaken and mine couldn’t have been more wrong.
When Kays divides the sides, the characters take on frightening distinction. Instead of the cool kids verses the nerds, it’s the hunters and the prey. The transformation from prep students to savages is done in a heart-pounding frenzy. The charismatic Ty Olwin (Jack) creates and controls the mob mentality. Acting as the enforcer, Rudy Galvin (Roger), backs up Olwin’s right to rule with a brutish presence. Although Olwin flourishes into a sadistic leader, Galvin arrives brooding. The pair is a terrifying duo. In a noteworthy performance, Lane Flores (Simon) endears as a happy-go-lucky kid and then is thoroughly riveting when he discovers the Lord of the Flies.
LORD OF THE FLIES is edgy and intense. Kays doesn’t contain the action to the actual stage. Instead, she has the actors go tribal all over the place. The frightening chases take on a life-threatening aspect that doesn’t always seem theatrical. These guys seem to organically escalate into a competitive madness. During one of the final scenes, I held my breath hoping Curnutt had the stamina required to survive.
LORD OF THE FLIES isn’t a passive play. It’s an aggressive experience that will leave you bewildered about the dark side of humanity.
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted
Based on the book written by William Goldring
Adapted by Nigel Williams
Directed by Halena Kays
Limited performances for general public
At 7:30pm on October 25th, 26th and November 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th
At 3pm on October 26th, 27th and November 2nd, 3rd, 9th , 10th
Buy Tickets at www.steppenwolf.org
Production photograph by Michael Brosilow