Children's Theater of Madison
From left: Max Hultquist, Nathan Lucas, Riley Moynihan, Max Gonzalez, and Charlie Wright in Children's Theater of Madison's Lord of the Flies.
Children's Theater of Madison's Lord of the Flies, currently running in Overture Center's Playhouse, is a suspenseful production that will get audiences thinking. Based on William Golding's classic novel, the play is immensely enjoyable.
The premise is simple. A plane full of young boys crashes onto an island, and they have to fend for themselves. Things become far more complicated than simple survival as they struggle with the brutal consequences of power. In short, it's a tale about what happens when no one is looking.
Golding wrote Lord of the Flies after the Second World War and its devastation, and he famously reflected that the process was "like lamenting the lost childhood of the world." Children's Theater of Madison achieves the book's bleak eeriness with talented, well-directed actors and a minimalist set.
The young cast is superb. Even the youngest actors deliver professional-level performances. Max Gonzalez and Nathan Lucas so convincingly portray twins Eric and Sam that I had to check the program to see if they are, indeed, brothers. (They're not.) Another feat: the disturbingly real seizure performed by Oliver Epstein.
The adult leads also shine, with intense, memorable performances. Charlie Wright is perfect as overly optimistic, good-hearted Ralph. His nemesis, Jack, is made sinister and manipulative by Riley Moynihan, and Max Hultquist is excellent as cowlicked, squinty-eyed Piggy.
The large cast fills the Playhouse stage, and every movement is perfectly timed. Fight choreographer James Ridge, of American Players Theatre, and movement choreographer Maureen Janson do an incredible job getting these young actors to fully use their bodies, making every movement dance-like.
A simple set and effective light and sound let the audience remain focused on the actors, undistracted. A lit screen, a multi-tiered stage, and a few sticks and stones are the bulk of the set. The impact of some props is softened a little for the sake of younger audience members: a fresh-killed pig is stylized, and the corpse of a downed paratrooper is fully dressed in a gasmask and uniform. Costume changes throughout reflect the characters' slide from schoolboys to savages.
At approximately two hours, including a 10 minute intermission, the show drags a bit in places, and for that I fault the script. I'm not wild about the adaptation, even though it is the only one approved by the author. It comes off as a little oversimplified.
CTM is marketing this show only to adults and children over 8, with good reason. With few comedic moments, Lord of the Flies is intense and could frighten young kids. It is fine proof of CTM's versatility.