The subtitle of the play is "the journal of an encounter." And it is just that. The play begins with anthropologist Katherine (Suzanne Warmanen) speaking directly to the audience about her studies, which she considers to be a combination of science and art. She then begins reading us notes from her most important scientific experiment. She discovered a feral child (Nathan Keepers) in the woods and taught him to speak, walk, wear clothing, use the toilet, essentially she taught him how to be human. But in doing so, he taught her what it means to be human, to be a human animal on this planet. It's profound, and funny, and fascinating. The entire encounter plays out over 75 minutes or so, a brief but beautiful glimpse into these two lives.
The piece was written and created by the ensemble and director Dominique Serrand, who also designed the set that's part cold clinical science lab, and part wild nature, with raised platforms of dirt and grass on one end. It's the perfect playground for these two wonderful actors to tell this story. Nathan Keepers always brings an expressive and specific physicality to his roles, but never moreso than here, creating this wild child, a performance so animalistic at first I thought maybe he was playing an ape. Grunting, bounding across the room, rolling on the floor, batting at a glass of water like a cat, as he gradually transforms before our eyes into something more human. Would I watch Nathan Keepers attempt to put on shoes for 10 minutes? Why yes, yes I would, and happily so! As the woman behind me said "he's so cute I just want to hug him!" (Really? Because all I want is for you to STOP TALKING and let me enjoy the show without your running commentary! The theater is not your living room, people! Rant over.) In contrast to Nathan's physicality, Suzanne Warmanen is an equal and opposite force. She's every bit the rational scientist, while still allowing us to see how this encounter goes beyond a simple scientific experiment.
|Nathan Keepers and Suzanne Warmanen|
(photo courtesy of The Moving Company)
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.