by Alicia Anstead
Nearly a week has passed since I saw the HRDC production of The Flies on the Loeb Mainstage, and I'm still a little squirmy. Itchy, really.
Jean-Paul Sartre's play draws from the Greek myths of Orestes and Electra -- if you think you have a strange family, check out this wacko clan -- and, when Sartre wrote the play in 1943, he meant it as a criticism of Nazi-era brainwashing, collaboration and capitulation. But this fall's Visiting Director Geordie Broadwater smacks the action right down into the backyard of the U.S. of A. -- it's Ardos, alright, but it's also Texas or New Mexico or at least No Country for Old Men. Saloons, mine holes, thugs, three bzzzzzzing Femmes Furies hungry for human flesh.
But Broadwater also makes much of the action funny.
"If you don't give the audience time to laugh, a time to relieve the tension, then they laugh at times when you don't want them to," said Broadwater.
The cast gets the audience laughing with a little slapstick, a little Addams Family, a little Coen Brothers. But the director also doesn't miss the chance to make an important point about self realization.
And very Broadwater, as it turns out. Among the themes of revenge, religion, honor, decay and love, the director landed on yet another idea that he believes speaks to his generation.
"A major theme in the play is about finding purpose in your life, finding direction, where what you do is planned and considered and worthwhile, not assigned," said Broadwater, who lives in New York City where he co-founded Babel Theatre Project after graduating from Harvard in 2004. "In the last five years since I graduated, I've seen a lot of my friends go to their jobs every day and get wrapped up in something they said they would be doing for only one year, and now it's five. And I also think that for a lot of young people graduating this year -- with the high unemployment -- that the pressure is on finding a job and making a living. But it's important for people to make considered choices and to make them for themselves."
The Flies is a creepy show. It's also funny. And, take it from me, the buzz lasts a long time.
[Caption: Sartre, looking a little fly-like. ]
[Caption: The Flies, or Les Mouches, was first staged at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris in 1943. The play's themes got by the Nazi censors, but the name of the venue was changed to Theatre de la Cite to Aryanize it. ]