Adriano Shaplin’s gonzo epic Sarah Flood in Salem Mass blends Our Town and The Crucible with verve, slang, and hallucinogenic beaver stew. (Yes, the Wooster Group did it first—minus the beavers—but that was 30 years ago.) The 18-character play at the Flea Theater opens in a riot of questionable godliness, incipient witchcraft, dynastic alliances, and contested wills. There are too many people, too many trees, too many narratives, and a lot of stage haze. Then it gets properly weird.
In his work with the Riot Group and Pig Iron, Shaplin has distinguished himself as a playwright of grand concerns and formal structures deflated by vernacular speech. Take, for example, the narrator’s discourse on evil: “The devil is a real guy. Believe me. I’ve seen him. He is the king of chaos. With the devil, nothing makes sense, on purpose. It’s frustrating. And then he hurts you. Not fun.” But Sarah Flood is fun, despite Shaplin’s overwrought sound design and the fact that he hasn’t exactly figured out an ending. Director Rebecca Wright both helps and hurts with her penchant for Viewpoints semaphore, Brechtian gestus, and the frequent miming riparian rodents. And yet, a good time? Dam straight.