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Young cast thrills in Steppenwolf’s ‘Lord of the Flies’

The stranded schoolboys whoop it up “Lord Flies” an adaptaticlassic William Golding story now being staged by Steppenwolf for Young

The stranded schoolboys whoop it up in “Lord of the Flies,” an adaptation of the classic William Golding story now being staged by Steppenwolf for Young Adults. | MICHAEL BROSILOW

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Highly recommended

When: Through Nov. 15

Where: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted

Tickets : $20

Info: (312) 335-1650;

Run time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Updated: November 22, 2013 6:15AM

It begins with a plane crash on a desert island. Gradually, the survivors appear: 12 British schoolboys of various ages and temperaments who begin to ally themselves with leaders of radically opposed philosphies.

Some of the boys — including Ralph (Spencer Curnutt, thoughtful, confident and real as the natural leader) and the chubby, asthmatic, bespectacled voice of sanity, “Piggy” (Dan Smeriglio, who expertly suggests his character’s inner strength and unshakeable sense of decency) — immediately begin to think about establishing order. They plan for rescue, focusing on building and sustaining a fire, and creating shelter.

Others gather around Jack (Ty Olwin, wiry, and with a chilling arrogance and drive), the former choir leader with the most savage instincts. And they excitedly head off to sharpen sticks into spears, to hunt wild pigs and to engage in a hair-raising blood ritual with chants and militant dancing.

And there you have it: The competing aspects of human nature from time immemorial — on one side the urge for civilization and cooperation, on the other the impulse to dominate by brute force — all perfectly condensed in William Golding’s classic 1954 allegory “Lord of the Flies.”

The story (in a stage adaptation by Nigel Williams) is now being thrillingly brought to life in director Halena Kays’ production for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, a series for high school students with weekend performances for the general public. Anyone disappointed by “The Wheel,” the thudding show now on the mainstage, is advised to catch “Lord of the Flies,” whose similar message is realized here in such vivid, visceral, disturbing ways that you cannot take your eyes off it.

Kays, artistic director of the Hypocrites, has never done finer work. Not only has she used every corner of Steppenwolf’s Upstairs space (with a raw, perilous set by Lizzie Bracken lit by J.R. Lederle). But she has orchestrated her ensemble of boys (ideally selected for looks, emotional tuning and physical daring) to stand against any veteran cast.

Lane Flores is haunting as Simon, the visionary victim subject to fits. Adam Shalzi and Ryan Heindl play spindly, fearful twins. Rudy Galvan is fearsome as Roger, the wild man who almost outdoes Jack, with William Burke, Lance Newton, Brendan Meyer and Kevin Quinn as Jack’s other followers. Cale Manning, with his guileless choirboy face, moves through the story with impressive gravity, a child lost in the horror of it all.

Kays’ team — Alison Siple (costumes), Mike Tutaj (sound design and projections), Leah Urzendowski (choreography) and Ryan Bourque (superb fight choreography) — contribute to this vision of a world that seems all too recognizable.


Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic

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