By Susan Nolan
Local playwright and Bowie State University professor Bob Bartlett invites you into the woods—because that’s the only place you will see the current production of his new drama, Lýkos Ánthrōpos.
The title is a nod to the mythological Greek king turned werewolf. The setting is closer to home and a little more rustic—a forest clearing near a backwoods bar in mountainous West Virginia. Instead of dragging tree limbs onto a theater stage, Bartlett presents his drama in the wild—an outdoor clearing in Davidsonville. This decision to bring the audience to the set, instead of the set to a stage, creates an eerie ambiance that feels both intimate and unsettling.
Be warned, this is not a Halloween haunted house or a family-friendly ghost tour. The 75-minute, two-man drama is a psychological horror with strong language and vivid descriptions of violence. It’s not suitable for children.
The play opens with a young man (Nicholas Gerwitz) meeting a stranger (Patrick Kilpatrick) in the woods. At first, it seems like a chance encounter, but the stranger issues a warning: the forest is dangerous. Evil, suffering, and death lurk in the shadows.
A rapid-fire exchange reveals that this is not the first time they have met in this same clearing. They are aware of each other’s patterns and movements. One comes to the forest to protect others from the blood-thirsty monster he becomes. The other is trapped in the unspeakable violence and personal trauma of the past. One seeks liberation from his physical and emotional torment. The other seeks vengeance. In a wicked twist, one may get what he longs for at the expense of the other.
The acting, under the direction of Alex Levy, is superb. Gerwitz and Kilpatrick are Shakespearean-trained actors accustomed to demanding dramatic roles and it shows. Both are consummate storytellers using voice and body to pull the audience in. We fear them as monsters, and we pity them as men.
Two bits of advice should you decide you are up for this chilling drama. One: Don’t wait to buy tickets. They are available online only and with such limited seating (just 20 or so tickets available per performance), they will likely sell out. Two: Come prepared. You will be parking in a meadow and walking down a dimly lit path. Dress for the weather. No concessions. No restroom.
So, bundle up, wear comfortable shoes for the short hike, and bring your flashlight and camp chair. Lýkos Ánthrōpos proves to be a satisfying way to spend an autumn evening.
Lýkos Ánthrōpos runs through Nov. 6, Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm in Davidsonville. Tickets, $25: bob-bartlett.com.