Through Jan. 14 at the Yale Cabaret. Remaining performances are tonight (Saturday the 14th) at 8:30 and 11 p.m.
By Martyna Majok. Direction and set design by Dustin Wills. Lights by Solomon Weisbard. Costumes by Seth Bodie. Sound by Ken Goodwin. Producer: Shane Hudson. Dramaturg: Tanya Dean. Stage Manager: Catherine Costanzo. Technical Director: Nicole Bromley.
The Yale Cabaret’s uncorked its spring semester. Always an exciting time in the school year, since the first-year acting students are now allowed (by their administrative protectors) to strut their stuff in open-to-the-public productions. A special culture forms at the Cabaret, with some ubiquitous talents of the past few semesters starting to ease away from the space (as thesis projects and the Carlotta Festival loom), relinquishing it to the new breed.
The overlap in reWilding between old hands (the radiant even when dirtied up Adina Verson, who’s practically lived in the Cabaret for the past few semesters and summers; the assured comic relief of Lucas Dixon) and new add immeasurably to the effect of reWilding. The play is about socializing in the most awkward situations. It investigates a culture of people who want to forget their pasts, formed in a backwoods swampland.
What makes the piece groundbreaking is the lack of community shown. This is about individuals finding their way but not necessarily connecting. The dramatic thrust is not about a revolution. It is about the instincts of escaping and of gathering.
There are so many metaphors to be found here, starting with the purposefully nonhierarchical and intriguingly scattered Occupy Movement. There are applications to college life, small town living, religious hermitages and historical settlements during the land grabs of past centuries. The people in reWilding behave as if they might as well be living in far-off lands. They have lost the strong connections to time and place that most of us take for granted. Their monologues—the whole show is a stream of vignettes, few of them involving more than one speaker—are vivid for their apartness. There’s music and liveliness, but neatly countered with oppressive darkness and director/designer Dustin Wills’ clever use of door/screens as dividers and obstacles.
I’m reminded to the Meredith Monk faux-documentary Book of Days, where an interviewer from modern times attempts to interview inhabitants of a medieval village. Only so much practical information can be divined, and the residents can be reticent and uncomprehending.
There are some melodramatic touches to ReWilding which skew the experience more toward a murder/suspense plot than the quiet, tense reflections which are its real strength. The sense of menace and disorientation is there without the need to provide such visceral hints of unhinged violence.
But overall, this is a profound journey into undocumented lifestyles and human directions, achieved with admirable balance, useful abstraction and a neat open-endedness, despite all the obvious temptations which threaten to turn this psychological thought piece into a slasher-film scenario.