Adam Rapp’s The Wolf In The River is like a “Lord of the Flies” for the poverty-ridden backwoods of the South. Rapp’s language is poetic though harsh with its message. He speaks of today’s society with a brutal impact incased in flowery descriptions.
In The Wolf In The River the narrator (Jack Ellis), opens a bag that has a dead girl’s clothes bunched up. He does so on top of Arnulfo Maldonado’s hill of dirt surrounded by flowers. It is more like a grave where several girl’s have been laid to rest. Is the narrator the killer of the teller of stories? Just then, we meet Tana (Kate Thulin), a 16-year-old girl stark naked running for her life. Desperate to cover herself up, the narrator taunts us by saying was she swallowed up by the river or eaten by wolves and makes the audience both of these entities. When we next see Tana she is clothed in the clothes in the bag. Her brother Dothan (William Apps), is a dishonorably discharged veteran with mental problems. His girlfriend Monty (Xanthe Paige), leads a cult like gang of feral hoodlums who eat flowers to get high and have sex with blow up dolls. They all have make shift ports on their arms, where Monty collects their blood. Tana longs to escape this horror and cross the river to be with Debo (Maki Borden), a young man who loves her. The dim witted Pin (Mike Swift), also loves her and becomes here salvation and demise.
The actors are for the most part the resident company called The Bats. They are in high form with Rapp’s work, brave, daring and utterly terrifying. There is a intensity that makes you wonder if this show will turn real and bring you into its midst. I especially liked Ms. Thulin’s doe eyed performance that leads to her fate. As she is suspended above us we see all the emotions that this act would take and we root for her. She is the grounding force amongst this insanity. Ms. Paige brings an interesting psychopathic glint to her performance. Mr. Borden shines in the scene where he and Tana meet. He effortlessly glides around the stage, as if on a real skiff. The chemistry between the two would be lovers makes the climax that more powerful.
Rapp, who also directs, keeps this production alarmingly honest. Despite what is good about this play the play in a strange way goes nowhere and we never really get to know these characters. Masha Tsimring, lighting is eerily haunting and Michael Hili and Hallie Elizabeth Newton’s costumes add to the suspense.
The Wolf In The River is the perfect horror story to keep you up at night. There is also plenty of violence and nudity to combat a video game or the world news.
The Wolf In The River: The Flea Theatre, 41 White St. until May 2nd.