The opening image of Greta (Adina Verson DRA ’12) staring with wild eyes, head tilted upwards, telling the audience to “listen,” captivates viewers of the Cabaret’s latest play. But the “wild” in the Yale Cabaret performance of “reWilding” by Martyna Majok DRA ’12 does not stop at the characters’ eyes and hair. It is woven throughout the play, which through eerie dialogue tells the story of a rural community in the South that has abandoned society to live in the woods.
The audience encounters this society through the character of Eda (Ashton Heyl DRA ’14), who arrives in the community at the play’s start. “Just watch yer past tense,” fellow community member Agnes (Margot Bordelon DRA ’13) tells her, since the characters who live in the woods have agreed never to ask each other personal questions about the past. In this way, the play effectively highlights and blurs the distinction between searching for and running from something. “People don’t come here to find what they lost,” Agnes says, yet it is clear from the dialogue that not all of the characters have fully left their stories behind.
The scenes are intentionally fragmented and do not provide background on the characters, often leaving audience members somewhat in the dark. The acting also furthers the mystique of the characters. Mickey Theis DRA ’14 and Chris Bannow DRA ’14 give excellent performances as Adam and Quinn, two boys who have spent most of their lives in the wild and who have an intimate relationship that doesn’t quite fit in to any normal categorizations. Lucas Dixon ’12 delivers a darkly funny monologue as Chicken Man, another community member, in the play’s most comic scene. Tim Brown DRA ’13 stares fixedly on the audience as he tells the chilling story of children disappearing from his town.
The setting also enhances the unsettling feel of the play. While seemingly out of place in the wild community, the props — including chairs, instruments, shutters, window frames, and hanging doors tethered from the ceiling — complement the mismatched collection of characters and perpetuate the rustic mood of the woods.
Under the direction of Dustin Wills DRA ’14, characters drift across the darkened stage and rearrange the hanging doors during scene transitions, all the while mimicking sounds of the woods. Sometimes, the faint hum of crickets and wind would unexpectedly rise into a cacophonic drone of voices, filling the small black-box theater before abruptly falling silent.
Majok said she drew inspiration for “reWilding” from photographs of a community in North Carolina of people living in what she called “selective isolation.”
“I was interested in these people who would seek this alternative lifestyle,” said Majok, though she did not visit North Carolina before writing the play. “If I did too much research, [the play] would turn into a thesis paper. I have no claim to these people’s lives,” she added.
While more polished than most Cabaret performances, “reWilding” still feels raw and unnerving. You will spend the play on edge, immersing yourself in the characters without ever really being sure which ones chose a progressive lifestyle and which ones are just crazy.
“reWilding”” is running at the Yale Cabaret from Jan. 12 through Jan. 14.
Corrections: Jan. 16 and 17
An earlier version of this article misstated the year of Adina Verson ’12. She is in the Drama School’s class of 2012, not 2014. It also misstated the dates that “reWilding” ran. It closed on Jan. 14, not Jan. 29