When I first walked into the Howell Theatre in the Temple Building for the opening night of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre’s version of “Lord of the Flies” on April 13, I was a bit skeptical.
As a huge fan of classic books, I have read “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding at least a handful of times, and after being let down by the original 1963 film, I went in thinking the play was going to be another disappointment. But I am pleased to say I was wrong.
Based on Golding’s novel, “Lord of the Flies” centers around a group of British, or in this case American, school boys whose plane crash-landed on an uninhabited island in the Pacific.
The story mainly focuses on three of the boys — Ralph, Piggy and Jack — as they struggle to agree on leadership roles, how to keep the island in order and their means to survive. Left without any adult supervision, some of the boys quickly turn into bloodthirsty savages whose actions toward the end of the story lead to deadly consequences.
Before the stage lights even turned on, the show had my full attention. Using a recording of a plane and a fog machine to mimic a plane crash, I was instantly hooked as Ralph (played by Bradley Tejeda) and Piggy (played by Colton Storm) walked onstage.
Ralph and Piggy meet for the first time in the opening scene, as they try to cope with the crash and find a way to communicate with others who may have survived. The scene was quite humorous, with Ralph poking a bit of fun at Piggy’s name, but at the same time, the interaction between the two actors felt a bit awkward, and I was glad when the rest of the cast joined the two on stage.
Led by choirmaster Jack (played by Harrison Bryan) the choir marched on stage singing in reply to a call from Ralph’s conch shell, beckoning them to come to the beach. The audience was instantly introduced to Jack’s authoritative and controlling nature as he yelled at the other choir boys to stay in line. Though it didn’t seem like much at first, this one small act would foreshadow a dictatorship-like hell into which the boys would soon be thrown.
Throughout the first act, I was mildly interested in the show. The beginning of the show was a bit slow, albeit entertaining, as it gave the audience insight into the characters’ personalities, as well as setting up the whirlwind of the story the audience was about to hear.
As Ralph is voted leader of the group, Jack gets upset and demands to take charge. This disagreement ended up leading to more than one violent altercation between the two boys, and eventually Jack breaks off from the group with a few of the choir members to start his own community of violent hunters.
It wasn’t until the two groups split up that I began to get excited about the rest of the show. One of the main plots of the story is about a beast, first brought up by choir member Simon (played by Tyler Meredith) that supposedly roams the island.
As terrified boys with nothing else to do, Jack and his group set out to find the beast, which ends up turning the second act of “Lord of the Flies” into a chilling, devastating tale of what blinding fear can actually do to a person, whether they’re a horrible human being or not.
Mistaking Simon as the beast, the boys commit the first murder of the show after attacking Simon in the middle of the night thinking they were saving their lives. This horrific event set off a chain-reaction of other events that ended with Jack as the leader of the island and Ralph fighting for his life.
While all of the performances became much better as the night went on, my favorite was by far that of Tejeda. Toward the end of the show when Ralph was hiding from the other boys to avoid being killed too, the tone in Tejeda’s voice and the expressions he displayed on his face made me believe, for a second, that he actually feared for his life.
Through amazing sound effects and spot-on makeup, I think the Nebraska Repertory Theatre made a smart choice in premiering “Lord of the Flies” as their last show of the season.
The play did a great job at sticking close to Golding’s novel, and the cast did a stunning job at portraying characters that have such strong personalities.
After watching “Lord of the Flies,” I’m happy to say my love for the story remains, and by the end of the night, all of my concerns about the show were gone. If anything, the play made me want to pick up a copy of the book and read it all over again.
“Lord of the Flies” will be playing until April 22. Tickets are still available on the Lied Center website and in the box office.