BWW Review: Spooky THE LOST GIRLS at The Annex Theatre Misses Forest for Trees

BWW Review: Spooky THE LOST GIRLS at The Annex Theatre Misses Forest for Trees
Jordi Montez, Shermona Mitchell, Dayo Vice, Alysha Curry
and Zenaida Smith in
"The Lost Girls"
Photo credit: Ian Johnston

Quarter-life crisis is the new midlife crisis, and the characters in The Annex Theatre's "The Lost Girls" are suffering. What's the point of spending so much on a college education in the liberal arts only to work at a summer camp and move back in with your parents? On top of the expectations of the modern woman, the expectations of the modern post-grad woman are grim.

I wonder what Samuel Beckett would think of the reoccurring theme of post-grad nihilism in modern theatre. There has been a trendy boom of millennial Sisyphuses (Sisyphi?) in theatre: "The Summer House," "Really, Really," "Things You Can Do," "Unexpected Wilderness", and now "The Lost Girls." Directed by Kaytlin McIntyre, playwright Courtney Meaker combines post-grad nihilism with horror as five young women face their greatest fears: the real world and death.

Sounds corny, no? Well, it's more complicated than corny. Misti, Donny, Rosa, Nashua and Claire have graduated from college and got jobs-much to their chagrin-as counselors at Camp Explorequest. Preppy Nashua went to the camp when she was young, the only among them that had been to the camp before. It's the night before the first day of camp. The five of them gather under a tree to drink whiskey and bond, when quickly the tale turns sinister.

Nashua tells the story of how the camp used to be run by nuns who taught girls unspeakable things like science and beer brewing. The town revolted, and the conservatory's entire community was slaughtered. The ghosts of the late nuns allegedly haunt the camp.

This is the point where the show becomes a logistical nightmare that is almost impossible to follow. Turns out, there's some sort of monster living in the water that controls the behavior of everyone at the camp, while also controlling the ghosts. On top of that, the ghost nuns and the monster are allies. The monster wants to trick lazy, young women into coming into the lake so the monster can eat them. The monster also has chosen (at least) one human ally (maybe willingly, maybe brainwashed into doing so) to infiltrate the camp and hunt young women. For some reason, young women doing their best are the enemy to the nuns, and not the men who drowned, burned, and hung them. It's suggested that the ghost nuns seek revenge because the post-grads are ungrateful-which is true, but it feels incongruous to what I think is meant to be a feminist play.

In general, these characters are difficult to connect with due to the show's convoluted plotline as well as the characters' very twisted hierarchy of needs. When a young girl dies at the hands of a mind-controlling lake monster, Claire's first response is to gripe about what she's going to do for money now that she doesn't have a job at the camp. There is a convenient explanation for their exaggerated, privileged, hedonistic behavior-the monster-but the counselors have a) been non-stop drinking and b) appear more bratty and entitled than demonic. How are we supposed to know which characters' minds have been taken over by the monster? The evil lake phantom makes people wildly angry and horny, but alcohol also makes people wildly angry and horny. There was no clear mode of comparison.

"The Lost Girls" touches on some really conceptually interesting notions about societal pressures, self-sabotage, and how we measure a woman's worth. Plopping an existential crisis into a horror story is a unique concept that I would like to see more of. However, "The Lost Girls" tried to throw too many concepts and ideas against the wall, resulting in a muddied narrative.

I want to honor and celebrate how this show handled horror. Qualms with the narrative aside, this show conjures real feelings of dread and fear. I felt myself recoil into the theatre seat as I watched the nightmarish chaos unfold. Though the set was sparse and simple, Gwyn Skone's lighting and Erin Bednarz's sound design gave a Lynchian feel to the show.

Rachel Guyer-Mafune is perfectly severe and ghostly as Pat, the creepy, little girl. Shermona Mitchell's Misti is charismatic, and feels the most fleshed out. Jordi Montes' brings sweetness to butch Donny. Alysha Curry gets very spooky very quickly as the religious, conservative Rosa. As type-A Nashua, Zenaida Smith is manic and intense. Dayo Vice's portrayal of dark and broody Claire felt ominous from the start.

"The Lost Girls" has potential, but feels like a rough draft. For some cool ideas drowned out by a cacophony of concepts, I give The Annex Theatre's "The Lost Girls" 2.5/5 stars. I hope most post-grads don't feel as confused and hopeless as I did after the show.

"The Lost Girls" performs at The Annex Theatre through November 19, 2016. For tickets and information, visit them online at www.annextheatre.org.

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From This Author Amelia Reynolds

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