On its Facebook page, the South Florida experimental/absurdist theater company LakeHouseRanchDotPNG calls its current show, “rabbit” a “horror play.”
Certainly, the piece’s premise is frightening, but not in a Halloween house of ghosts and goblins kind of way. Rather, it is scary, chilling and eerily familiar these days to think of a world in which books are forbidden, journaling is “not really allowed,” and one person’s words, wishes, and commands are “law.” Yet that is the world of “rabbit,” a new horror play by Riley Elton McCarthy (who identifies with pronouns of they and them so we will, as well, here) that is onstage for three more performances in a solid production by LakeHouseRanchDotPNG at its intimate black box theater space in Kendall.
Judging from a recent performance, the play is a cross between the classic novels “Lord of the Flies” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” But McCarthy describes their play as follows: “rabbit” is a “loosen dystopic adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Flies.’”
That work is a 1954 novel by William Golding that concerns a group of British boys who are stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves.
Meanwhile, “rabbit” asks “what will happen when the stories we pass down to our children become warped in the world we leave them behind in.
The premiere is such: A long time ago a group of school children became lost in the woods. What remains of those children is the Rabbit Pack, run by avant leader kade, obsessed with rabbits. This concept has become evolved into a hierarchy of hunters and gatherers, where those who have proven their worth to the oligarch get to "hunt." henri, a wayfarer, has wandered their way into the woods, where they're roped up into the strangeness of the Rabbit Pack, and we are strung along an increasingly disturbing chain of events with a cataclysmic ending.”
In “rabbit,” “kade is law. kade’s word is law. kade’s wishes, beyond life or death, is law.” In LakeHouseRanchDotPNG’s production, the entire cast of characters chants the above slogan like dutiful servants who know they may be whipped if they disobey the rules.
The performers make you wonder whether their characters are humans, beasts, or a hybrid between the two. At times, the actors walk on their two feet, while during other moments, they’re on all fours, crawling or waiting to pounce. Perhaps this production, under Brandon Urrutia’s careful direction, wants to emphasize that we all possess dual human/beast traits. In the play, characters are “either a wolf or a rabbit” depending on what level they have reached.
“There are rabbits in these woods which means that the time has come for a hunt,” kade says, followed by a triumphant howl from all.
“rabbit” can be hard to follow, so paying close attention without distractions will go a long way toward understanding the particulars. Of course, it helps that the pacing by Urrutia is just right — not too fast and not too slow. Also, highly dramatic moments receive the emphasis they deserve.
As soon as you enter the theater, you realize that this is not going to be a traditional theater production complete with a closed curtain and “Fourth Wall.” Instead, you walk in to find actors with their heads bowed and huddled in a circular configuration. One of the performers is seated in a chair, while the others are on the floor. They pretty much remain in their position until the production’s official start.
The actors perform on scenic designer Indy Sullerio’s basic set, which features a greenish floor, perhaps to indicate woods. Mostly, the set comprises the dark walls, floor, and ceiling of LakeHouseRanchDotPNG’s theatrical space. The black color lends the piece a mysterious, dark aura. Many pieces of paper are affixed to the walls. One wall, in particular, stands in the form of a cross, and also features papers that contain drawings and written messages.
The drawings and written messages concern an unseen character referred to only as “The Little One.” That individual brought everybody else to these woods. Once that person brought them there, he or she supposedly taught all the characters all that they needed to know. Then, The Little One left. The cross was left as a reminder of The Little One. Sullerio’s set design gets illuminated by non-realistic lighting (a lighting designer is not mentioned in the program). However, the designer of the character-appropriate costumes is Lucy Marie Lopez. And Maleeha Naseer designed the sound.
Performance-wise, Lakehouseranchdotpng company member Samuel Krogh lends kade a sinister disposition. With wide, dark, icy eyes and dark hair, Krogh’s kade conveys a maniacal intensity that calls to mind Hannibal Lecter from “Silence of the Lambs.” As Krogh portrays him, this character is almost gleeful in his dictatorial rule.
Another cast standout is Emily Valdes as a dutiful henri, the wayfarer who wandered their way into these woods.
In addition to Krogh and Valdes, cast members are Charisma Jolly, Maleeha Naseer, Alex Camacho, Michael Font, Abby Wolf, and Mairi Chanel.
Up next for Lakehouseranchdotpng is a play titled “Enter, Grapefruit,” by Charisma Jolly. In the piece, which will run from Dec. 1-10, a well-loved, but forgotten comedian fights to win over people’s hearts and make a name for herself while struggling with illness and her own self doubts. The play’s basis is the life of Gilda Radner, founding member of “Saturday Night Live.”
- Lakehouseranchdotpng will conclude its production of “rabbit” this weekend, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday.
- Tickets are $20.
- The theater is located at Artistic Vibes, 8846 SW 129th Terrace, Suite B in Kendall.
- For more information, go to www.lakehouseranchdotpng.com.