By Marcina Zaccaria
Written by Adriano Shaplin and directed by Rebecca Wright, “Salem Flood in Salem Mass” is a radical re-telling of the events leading up to the Salem Witch Trials. The show embraces the look of early America while celebrating ensemble based performance.
Narrators dressed like dancers are the genies that open the bottle of time travel. Will some find power while others bask in glory? Can they exorcise their demons before confronting their afflicted past? Will they form a new church before the end of the show?
Featuring The Bats, the resident acting company members of the Flea Theater, “Sarah Flood in Salem Mass” never gives too many moments to one performer. The production evokes the plot points and the rhythm of the language of the classic Arthur Miller play, “The Crucible.” It is heavy with gesture. Attention to the characters are as important as attention to the thematic material. Obie Award winner Adriano Shaplin writes a script that is descriptive about how he considers love, trust, and the idea of collective. Sarah Flood, Captain Thomas Putnam, Laura Indian, Goody Good, and Mercy sound like people we have heard about, and it is long on rhetoric from a story we know. Although some moments were difficult to follow, there was no mistaking his intention regarding the emotional worlds through which the characters traverse.
Behind the mauve curtains, swings rise up and provide levels to the production. Lighting Designer Dante Olivia Smith provides haze that covers the set, and purple and blue lights hit both sides of the stage. Many of the tableaux are evocative, and the sights and sounds of the show are cohesive. Director Rebecca Wright’s uses split staging in a way that is quite effective Actors look like portraits from the past. Some gather food and prepare to defend their land using rifles. Looking like something out of the book, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Mercy, covered in blood, scales the back wall.
Shaplin has also designed the sound. The layered sound and staging never seem at odds with the goals of the production. Piano music and new age tones provide the pace for the language spoken by the actors. Costume Designer Nikki Delhomme keeps most of the performers in early American dress while giving slightly different costumes to an Asian spiritual leader, the priest, and of course, time traveling guides.
No matter how you follow their journey, the cast and creative team of “Sarah Flood in Salem Mass” present a smart show with plenty of angles to consider.
The production is running until October 26th at The Flea Theater at 41 White Street in Tribeca. Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-352-3101 or online at www.theflea.org.