Ahh, Lord of the Flies: everyone’s favorite romantic comedy. Opening night is January 28th and the play runs through February 25th, which makes it an excellent date night for all you lovers out there.
Ahh, Lord of the Flies: everyone’s favorite romantic comedy.1 Opening night is January 28th and the play runs through February 25th, which makes it an excellent date night for all you lovers out there.
Henley Street Theater’s The Lord of the Flies (directed by Josh Chenard) opens with a bang. As the lights dim, an old radio news report can be heard, there’s a flash and a sharp crack, and then the lights fade in so that the audience finds themselves surrounded by stranded boys. As smoke fills the room and golden light begins to glow, the boys move in slow motion through confusion, exhaustion, and grief. The music of a boys’ choir fills the room. The lights fade again.
This is one of the few moments of quiet throughout the production, and from there the audience is swept into the story without a moment to lose. When the lights come back up, we meet Ralph (played by Eric Evans), a wiry young boy who’s a natural leader, and poor unfortunately-named Piggy (Matthew Barger), with his large glasses and sweater vest, who is rather like Eustace Scrubb.2 The rest of the group quickly joins the stage, and we meet Jack Merridew (Drew Sease), the choir prefect who quickly attempts to dominate the other boys by making himself the chief. However, despite Jack’s attempts to be the leader, it is Ralph who is voted in as chief. There’s also small, Christopher Robin-esque Percival (Connor Wilkerson), the littlest (or, as Golding would say, littlun) boy, who at first is quite scared and who clearly needs to be protected. It is Percival who first mentions The Beast. Thus we have our warring leader and wannabe-leader, our sensible Piggy, our factions emerging, and an unknown Beast somewhere out there; the stage is set.
I should take a moment to mention the physical stage itself. Since the SPARC Center stage is quite small, multiple scenes often take place at once on the stage, with one group stopping to freeze themselves while the other scene takes place next to them. This decision makes for an eerie sense of foreboding as you can see the savagery paused several times: boys with spears raised and then frozen, wild-eyed. There are few total scene changes, as everything flows from one to the other while on stage. The lighting is also a character, particularly during a manic monologue by Simon (Sean Wyland) where he seems to teeter on the brink of sanity. Flashes of lightning and sharp cracks of thunder pierce Simon’s dialogue, and the white light illuminates his face to make the entire scene super creepy.
Soon, Jack and his rowdier choirboys are hunting and killing a pig. Their ritualistic chanting of “Kill the pig, spill its blood; kill the pig, spill its blood; kill the pig, spill its blood!” becomes more and more frenzied, and more and more the audience can see that Jack and his lads are leaving polite society behind as a distant memory. Jack makes this plain when he contemplates that he once knew a boy named Merridew; Jack has become something else entirely (which Sease plays masterfully). It is this crazed inhuman savagery that ultimately overtakes the boys with subsequent hunting, with the pounding of spears and the smearing of blood, and the chanting of “Kill the pig, spill its blood; kill the pig, spill its blood; kill the pig, spill its blood!” The techno-tribal music that plays during some of this adds a sense of the growing mania which continues to build so that the majority of the play spirals into a crescendo of madness and murder as Jack attempts to take over as chief.
Then there’s that Beast. This is one aspect of the story that seems to be difficult to portray within a minimal production. It becomes apparent that there is a Beast to be feared on the island. Jack is the first to announce that it must take other shapes and that you can tell by someone’s eyes if they are possessed by The Beast. Readers know that in the end, the Beast is not quite what it seems, but on stage, this is so quickly acted out that it’s a little difficult to catch if you’re not looking sharp. As a body and parachute3 never seem to make an appearance, it’s important to pay close attention to the dialogue that happens in the midst of the wild stamping, hollering, and chanting that becomes louder and louder, more and more frantic, and tumbles out of control.
In the end, when the naval officer, who appears at the very last second before Ralph is murdered, chides the boys for their lack of proper conduct as they were “all playing a game,” it is Ralph’s wonderfully executed hysterical hyperventilated choking sobs that continue even as the red lights fade to black, bringing the story of a harsh end. And with another flash of light, it’s over, and we are left with that haunting boys’ choir, this time both in the air as the music plays, and on the stage, where we see them fade.
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- Alas, no performance on Valentine’s Day, but there is one on the 15th! In all seriousness though, it’s a wild ride.4 ↩
- Maybe you’re familiar with another British schoolboy who’s a bit cranky about being stranded someplace and would really like everyone to be civilized and properly organized. ↩
- I’m trying not to be too specific here, in case you don’t want to have everything spoiled! ↩
- Just like love. ↩