The Department of Theatrical Arts opened its season with a production of Wiley and the Hairy Man, a fun and whimsical play for audiences of all ages, which premiered on Sept. 16.
The children’s play centers around the imaginative Wiley, a young fatherless boy and his conjure-woman Mammy deep in the Tombigbee swamp. Wiley is haunted by the presence of the Hairy Man, a swamp creature who took Wiley’s Pappy and is out to take Wiley too. With the help of his trusty dog named Dog, Wiley is able to overcome his fears and outsmart the Hairy Man.
The entire production is aimed at infusing the audience into the story and the set. Most of the cast consists of the Chorus, not unlike plays in ancient Greece. The Chorus serves not only as a narrator and a voice of reason to Wiley, but also a part of the set design itself.
Several Chorus members were costumed as old bare trees that moved depending on the needs of the story. Their movements were rough, yet natural and organic. They were able to stand out as part actors, part set aspect, without drawing attention to themselves or becoming a distraction.
Another part of the Chorus was the Puppeteers who combined to create the Hairy Man by each member manipulating a part of the creature such as the legs or the arms. The motion was so fluid and natural it looked like an actual creature.
Each Puppeteer worked together to create a unified being with believable movement and real characterization. The Chorus used rhythm and rhyme to verbally explain part of the narrative as well as provide atmosphere to the set.
The dedication to their roles and their ability to work together to create an overall feeling was immensely entertaining and one of the best parts of the show.
The part of Wiley was played by Orem native Anne Marie Betts. Though she is a woman and an adult, she was enthralling as the mischievous young Wiley. Her energy and mannerisms were so spot on, the audience never questioned her.
The play runs from through Oct. 2 in the Noorda Theater Center for Children & Youth. Tickets are $7 with a UVU ID, $9 with other student IDs and $11 for non-students and can be purchased at the theater box office.