The character of Robinson Crusoe has become a staple of folk legend ever since Defoe's novel appeared in 1720. Many writers have attempted to graft a number of metaphoric meanings onto the story of the shipwreck survivor marooned on a jungle island. The Wild by Andy Teirstein is only loosely ``inspired'' by the Crusoe story, which was in turn inspired by the real-life case of Alexander Selkirk, who survived a number of years on just such an island off the coast of Chile.
But, whereas Defoe used the character as an inspiring symbol, emblematic of those qualities of mettle, forbearance, and assiduous invention that elevate a society, Teirstein's castaway is on an inner trek, melding with the wilderness about him. He wandered about the stage (and into the audience) in tattered clothes, speaking of the near-total sense of isolation he feels, of the primacy of nature about him, and of its all-penetrating presence. His musings became increasingly hallucinatory to the point where it became difficult to discern his dreams from his waking state. Indeed, the implication may be that such a dichotomy has become pointless, given his situation. A man and woman flit in and out of the action, as if intrusions on his thoughts. Each play various musical instruments and act out supporting roles in his ongoing psychodrama.
The ``Friday'' character is here named ``Noah,'' and the indigenous islander serves as a sort of guide (rather than a servant) to his lost companion. Ultimately, the central character gains a vision of his own society and his place in it by withdrawing from it.
Teirstein did well in merging music, movement, and text into a sensate whole. The sense of inner discovery was heightened with each increment of performance. And the one-hour length helped in not belaboring any dramatic points. Jon Spelman's Crusoe figure was extremely well-spoken and maintained an audience's sympathy in a role that could have come off as frightfully self-indulgent. Michelle Kinney, as the woman invading his dreams, came off as a memorable presence. Not only was her cello technique impressive, but her dance skills and stage charisma were in abundance. Teirstein, himself, played the dream man. Although sort of a black hole on stage, he is an accomplished musician. Sigfrido Aguilar, as Noah, performed beautifully an otherworldly sense of movement, implying he was foreign not just to the castaway's culture, but to the corporeal realm as well.
The uncredited set and costumes were a mishmash of contemporary and archaic elements. But Sarah Sidman's lighting was a perfect atmospheric partner to Teirstein's music in setting a tone of dislocation.
Copyright 1996 John Michael Koroly
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