When a traveler along Rt. 50 west of DC finds themselves drawn, curiously, via Exit 16, to Davidsonville and MD 424 south, and, a mile or so beyond the stoplight at the filling station, is drawn yet again along the lonely Emilys Way to the left, a curious sequence of yellow arrows leads you to a dead end, and to a farmhouse with firewood piled high for the winter.
In the darkness, a hooded figure directs you to park in the tall grass, and once you and others are fully assembled, you wait for another solitary figure to lead you down a narrow path into the forest. The constellation Cassiopeia (that off-angled W in the sky” pointing downward toward the ground) hovers over the woods as you enter, past an alarmingly executed wood sculpture of a wolf’s head. Down the woods you find a circle of lights; you’re invited to pitch your folding chairs outside the circle and to settle in for an intensely psychological encounter between predator and prey, of indeterminate species.
Bob Bartlett’s new environmental production, Lýkos Ánthrōpos, set appropriately in a remote wooded area, is one of the most seasonally appropriate shows you’re likely to encounter. Its title, with its curious markings, indicates its nodding acquaintance with Greek mythology, and the spelling of the words wolf and man in the original Greek (λύκος ἅνθρωπος). There are paeans to Selene, goddess of the moon, and a lot of one man circling another, as the tension unfolds in the dead of night, waiting for the moon to do its magic. Or its worst.
Director Alex Levy does a good job balancing stasis and action as two lost souls encounter each other in the dimly lit circle. Civilization—in the form of a nearby bar—is an intermittent presence, as the two souls talk about the dark, about nature, about the wife and kids, about the need to cage oneself as the moon waxes full, about slaughtering and eating one’s kill… The lights sometimes go dark, as our first stranger, Nicholas Gerwitz, cast as the prey, challenges the other (the hirsute and howling Patrick Kilpatrick) to reveal themselves. This, combined with the distinct chill in the air, and the all-enveloping dark, heightens the tension in a way that fans of Lovecraft and King will absolutely adore.
Bob Bartlett’s script is admittedly a meandering affair, by turns elliptical, which comes perhaps from the ways in which hunter and prey encounter each other in the wild—watching, waiting, calculating whether and how to reveal themselves. There is an epilogue, in which Kilpatrick—the title character—ends the evening on a suspenseful note, the watcher casually revealing their passion for witnessing nature at its most ravenous, openly talking about their own monthly appetites.
There are your average theatrical adventures, all cozy and warm and indoors on a fall night. Then there are truly theatrical encounters, where you are left to your own devices in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go, while the magic unfolds right in front of you. Lýkos Ánthrōpos is just such an evening.
See it, I dare you.
Running time: 75 minutes without intermission.
Lýkos Ánthrōpos runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8 pm through November 6, 2022, in a clearing in the woods at 215 Emilys Way, in Davidsonville, MD. (Take Exit 16 off of Rt. 50, onto Rt. 424 South. Rt. 424 will turn into Birdsville Road. Look for the yellow diamond sign along 424 for Emilys Way (about 1.8 miles south of the stoplight at Rts. 424 & 214.) For tickets ($25) and more information visit bob-bartlett.com/single-project.
The program for Lýkos Ánthrōpos is available here.
Advisory: Lýkos Ánthrōpos is for mature audiences only.
A further advisory: As Lýkos Ánthrōpos is staged in the woods, there are no toilet facilities; plan accordingly.
Seating is limited to 20 per performance. Attendees should dress warmly, bring a fold-up chair and a lantern or flashlight, and wear hiking or hike-friendly shoes. Attendees will park in a meadow and walk a short distance into the woods for the 75-minute performance.
By Bob Bartlet
Directed by Alex Levy
Featuring Patrick Kilpatrick and Nicholas Gerwitz
Playwright Bob Bartlett on his scary new play in the woods, ‘Lýkos Ánthrōpos’ (interview by Charles Green, October 17, 2022)