Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lord of the Flies: Democracy and Madness at Playhouse on the Square

Posted By on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”
  • “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”

There are moments in Playhouse on the Square's chillingly austere take on William Golding's classic, Lord of the Flies, when the story's opposing gangs threaten to stage a Pat Benatar video, or square off in an old fashioned Jets v Sharks dance-off. While the poetic choices make sense here, and echo more ecstatic passages from the book, it's always a little too much the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, and never enough Lost. The sequences - some really impressive - create tonal inconsistencies in a strong show. It all works, it just never quite fits as cohesively as it might.

POTS's Lord of the Flies is the definition of an ensemble show where nobody's the star and everybody is. Director Jordan Nichols has brought together an able, age-appropriate cast of (mostly) teens, capable of addressing the story's heart, and its horror. Golding's violent story of tribalism and unraveling democracy is encumbered by a bit of post-colonial "savage v civilization" bias, but this sketched-in story of marooned British schoolboys playing naked dominance politics still rings as true as it ever has. And this crop of super-talented Memphis kids measures up to the challenge.

In one of the evening's more effective movement numbers the cast becomes a living, breathing evolution chart going one way first, then full on reverse.  It's too brutal, and too beautiful, and probably too on the nose. It's also a bullseye.


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