Not much to do in the Idaho wilderness. A city kid (Jake Orozco-Herman) could learn a lot from a kindly old man (Peter Brown deftly playing against type, with halting steps and bent frame). That’s the bare bones of A GREAT WILDERNESS by Samuel D. Hunter (@ Zeitgeist Stage through May 21st). The old guy’s quote unquote “friends” (one of whom is his ex-wife) want him to move into “a home” where he can be taken care of but he prefers cabin life: walks in the woods, no one to tell you what to do.
It’s all about the environment and the solitude for Walt and he finds real meaning in life when troubled kids are sent to him for counseling. “Just talk,” he says. It’s all so bucolic you might be drawn there yourself EXCEPT this is a Reparative Retreat for “misfit[ing]” gay kids to get “straight.” Pardon me while I scream. If the Bachmanns lived in Idaho, they’d be right at home with their “conversion” therapy. (You may recall a while back, Michele Bachmann was running for President, decrying all the money the government wastes on pork barrel projects while AT THE SAME TIME her husband’s conversion business was funded with federal dollars!) But I digress.
The only excitement in the play is when the boy runs away and everyone, including a ranger, lights out after him, the action, which includes a forest fire, now being off stage. We don’t even get to see the pivotal “burning bush” scene. We’re just told about it. BUT the extremely strange thing about A GREAT WILDERNESS is that there’s no one in the play to denounce this vile practice masquerading as “therapy.” The play just ends as slowly and laconically as it meandered throughout.
As always, director David Miller has assembled a talented cast and designed a nifty log cabin set. J. Jumbelic’s sound for each scene change makes you sit up and take note. Now that I think of it, the music may be the one dissenting element.
As always, Wednesday evenings are pay what you can.