Even before the new theater piece “reWilding” begins, you know you’re in for something extraordinary.
While being ushered into The Satori Group’s new space in the LAB@INScape arts building, you’re told actors will offer soup and bread during the play.
A few steps later, and you’re plunged instantly into another world — a rustic realm with dirt below, ropes of moss above, hanging cloths patchworking the sky and dwellings, fabricated trees. It smells of forest. And as musicians strum old folk tunes and hymns, it sounds like a rustic America time has forgotten.
This sensaround setting for “reWilding” defines an atmosphere which, literally, lays the groundwork for a spooky, resonant fable of escape and dystopia, a primal American quest for self-reinvention.
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Martyna Majok’s script brings confused, vulnerable young women, like Edith (LoraBeth Barr) and Agnes (Greta Wilson), into a makeshift encampment of refugees from urbanity, and us along with them.
Stray discontents are seduced into a remote “re-wilding” community of disparate squatters, who eat and sing together around a campfire, share stories and soup, and wander the forest at night in search of their lost souls.
The Satori Group conjures this habitat fully, in an ambience redolent with dramatic mystery and possibility. And the committed actors give us fleeting but deep glimpses of the longings and losses that have brought characters to this outpost — and continue to plague them, allowing them no peace.
Karen Jo Fairbrook as Ingrid, the group’s unofficial matriarch who briefly takes Agnes under her wing, is particularly affecting. John Leith rightly disturbs as a tolerated, mentally unhinged guy dubbed Chicken Man. Adam Standley and Quinn Franzen come on strong (at times overly so) as zip-lining, roughhousing wild boys those volatile hijinks have an unspoken, homoerotic edge.
One only wishes the gifted Majok and the Satori ensemble, who developed the piece along with director Caitlin Sullivan, were able or willing to bring more shape and rhythm to their big rucksack of monologues — reveries that sometimes evaporate in a mist of angsty, self-conscious surrealism.
It’s understandable if Majok’s intention is to not demystify these misfits, nor impose a tidy plot on them. But beyond quick flashes of attraction, suspicion, repulsion, there’s not much of a group dynamic in “reWilding” — and even a cluster of drifters forges some kind of communal dynamic.
Though the script could be fortified, “reWilding” is now a remarkable experience — and a haunting one, in a time of much alienation and rootlessness in our land. It promises more good things from the inventive Satori Group, as they settle into their new digs. (Note: seating for the show is very limited and reservations advised.)
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org