Bloody Mayhem at Trinity Rep
Social Creatures examines life in a post-apocalyptic world.
Imagine humanity has been destroyed by some sort of horrible pandemic that turns people into flesh-and-blood hungry creatures. But you’re one of the lucky few. You’ve survived and have managed to hunker down with a group of strangers. But the community is led by a bean counter, the spectre of death looms, and one of your fellow survivors likes to sing Hobbit songs. So how fortunate are you, really?
The world premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s play Social Creatures at Trinity Rep takes us inside a world where hope has dwindled and desperation grows by the minute. Alternatively very funny and sad, the production, directed by Curt Columbus, raises the question of whether it’s humans themselves who are the true monsters as it disintegrates into bloody mayhem.
“It’s inside of all of us, and the potential is everywhere,” Drury, a graduate of Brown’s MFA program, said in an interview for Trinity Rep’s study guide.
The action opens with a search for Mr. Smith (Charlie Thurston), who has disappeared. He’s married to the young Mrs. Smith (Rebecca Gibel), who is bereft without her husband and often high.
The community is led by Mrs. Jones (D’Arcy Dersham), a high-strung, efficient woman who is trying to hold it all together by enforcing rules, like that people can’t use their real names. She’s married to Mr. Jones (Alexander Platt), who is essentially browbeaten by his wife.
They’re trapped with characters like the very funny Mrs. Williams (Nance Williamson), a self-professed Lord of the Rings and Twilight fan who is secretly hoarding beans; Mr. Johnson (Timothy Crowe), a curmudgeon who slays rats with a baseball bat and proclaims that “Most of the people who are still around, they’re jerks”; and Mrs. Wilson (Janice Duclos), a former teacher who tries to keep the peace.
The survivors talk about not wanting to forget the people who left or died. But the play is also sprinkled with hints that the people who remain do not have clean hands. “We can talk about what you must have done to stay alive,” Mrs. Jones says at one point.
When they hear a knock at the door from the outside world, they’re terrified. After the new person (Darien Battle) stumbles in, they isolate him in a plastic room. As time goes on, some of the residents soften toward him, while Mrs. Jones, ever mindful of safety, tries to maintain control. And the newcomer, who Mrs. Jones calls Mr. Brown, raises the question of whether people on the outside went crazy not because of some virus but because they were used to always getting what they wanted.
The community begins to unravel after the most vulnerable member is infected and turns on her fellow survivors. It’s only after the delicate balance of mutual survival is upset that some of the characters start opening up to each other. But by then it’s too late, and blood is squirting everywhere.
Check out an interview with the playwright here:
Social Creatures runs through April 21 at Trinity Rep, 201 Washington St., Providence. Tickets are available through the box office at 351-4242 or online at trinityrep.com.