Through May 8|
FOXFINDER virtual The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park
Dawn King’s “Foxfinder” is a look at paranoia on both sides of social division, a clash between a dominant leadership group and the staunch yeomen who feed the cities.
It’s accentuated by director Mike Doben’s choice of Zachary Thomas as the weedy, city-dressed William and Rick Lattimer and Stefanie Warnick as strong and vibrant farmers Sam and Judith.
They are the Jeffersonian epitome of the producers, while William in suit and tie arrives from the mysterious training program of foxfinders, trained to find the foxes who are damaging food production and causing mental damage on the people.
William knows everything there is to know about how to hunt the victims of the foxes and dispose of those who he thinks have been mentally damaged by the fox.
He has actually never seen a fox, but knows all about them and the damage they can do, just as the witchfinders in “The Crucible” know all about witches and how to spot those taken over by them.
It’s easy to be reminded of Arthur Miller’s play because the basic premises are so similar and so different.
Both are societies where the greatest enemy is something no one ever sees but which can be used as a weapon for control and intimidation.
Miller set his story in the witch times in Salem, Massachusetts while King is using an England out of time in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984.”
Judith and Samuel know what they are doing on the farm while the mentally shaped and intimidating William only knows what he has been told after starting his training at the age of five.
He’s a true believer, the product of a training program rivalling that of the NKVD or the Gestapo, who can decide the farmers can be turned into slave labor in the lethal factories in the city if they don’t buy into the program.
William Bloor arrives because production has fallen off on the farm and he is convinced the foxes have affected the farmers and cut down the flow of food.
Only after he arrives does he discover the farm problem is that of a recently deceased four-year-old son and Judith just can’t take over Samuel’s workload along with her own.
Samuel is seriously disturbed by his son’s death and willing to buy into the fox theory, nights of stalking the nearby woods with William, hunting for a fox or even a trace of one.
Judith wants out, even considering fleeing the farm with neighbors like Sarah (Rachael Buchanan) for far distant Scotland to get away from the oppressive rule of foxfinders like William.
It’s really an interesting and impressively virtually staged look at a society taken over by fear of the unknown, of the foxes all are taught to fear without any seeming to appear, no actual enemy who could be fought and disposed of.
Instead, it’s an enemy implanted in minds.
Foxes are out there, even in my urban neighborhood.
Here, they are a symbol, a creatively staged creation of an invisible enemy who can be seen in the minds of everyone and used as a tool for mind control without the necessity of actually finding one or two.
Limited by the restrictions of virtual theater in these times, director Doben does a good job of creating a world which can be put on the small screen instead of the expansive stages we remember from a different world, not so long ago.
“Foxfinder” is a mix of costuming, lighting, staging and fine performances from all four characters to tell a tale of paranoia, true believers and mind molding.
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