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Off Broadway Reviews

Feral

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - May 22, 2019


Creative Team and Projected Images
Photo by Amy Downes

Feral, opening tonight as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters, begins with one of the cast members sitting at a drawing table. He quickly sketches and labels a series of childlike stick figures: "Joe (me)," "Dawn," "Mum" and a cat. As he works, the images are projected onto a screen above him. Thus begins a journey that will take us from spritely whimsy to dark cynicism in just under an hour.

Feral, a presentation by the Edinburgh, Scotland-based visual theater company known as Tortoise in a Nutshell, is about as Fringy as it gets. It uses barebones techniques of puppetry, film, cardboard cutouts, stop motion animation, and sound (but virtually no dialog) to share its storytelling art with an audience. Other than the camera and projection equipment, the tools are the simplest of ones, with results that are less "Wallace and Gromit" and more "Mr. Bill," the Saturday Night Live parody of claymation art.

The juxtaposition of watching the cast of technicians at work while viewing the results in real time on the screen (including some unintended or, perhaps, deliberate technical glitches) is a fascinating one. It is a process that most certainly would intrigue children. However, the story that emerges during the course of the evening is not exactly kid-friendly as it relates the sad tale of a quiet and quaint seaside town that descends into chaos, violence, and urban blight when a honky-tonk amusement pier is foisted upon its residents.

There is not much more to Feral than that. The title alone tells you that this will not be a happy-go-lucky theatrical experience, and, unfortunately, Joe, Mum, and Dawn never become the kind of central characters whose plight we might have followed with sympathy through the descent into mayhem that ensues. While it is definitely interesting to watch the crew working within a tight space to stay on top of things without tripping over one another, a better focused storyline would help to move the experience from documentary exhibition mode to drama.


Feral
Through June 9
59E59 Theaters in Theater B, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: 59e59.org


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