Does everyone fear the Chicken Man?

A forest grows deep within the former Immigration and Naturalization Services building on Airport Way. Dirt the shade of rust coats the floor; vines dangle from the ceiling. And it seems that people have taken up residence in this grove—constructing makeshift homes out of tarps and bed sheets, and building fires in metal buckets. You wouldn’t know a soul was there, save for the occasional singsong and the sound of bare feet shuffling across the dirt floor.

The squatters welcome you to visit. They’ll offer you soup—vegetarian—and a can of Hilliard’s beer. They’ll also ask you to stay for the show.

Talk about theater that transports you: In collaboration with playwright Martyna Majok, Seattle theatre ensemble the Satori Group has transformed its performance space in the INS building—recently reborn as Inscape Arts studios—into a woodland grove, possibly in North Carolina, home to a community of “rewildings.” These wanderers have left their past—and abandoned the use of past tense altogether—to seek a new life in the wild. “It is a society of the foreign and forgotten, the lost and the seeking,” each with his or her own mysterious backstory.

Audience members are escorted across the dirt floor by cast members and seated within the set: on chairs or benches or pillows in the darkness, beneath the cloth vines. Much of the play reWilding takes place by the light of a kerosene lamp. It’s immersive art, eerie in how real it feels, especially when the cast invites you to share its soup supper and tallboys at intermission. Their stories unfold ever so slowly and carefully, less a narrative and more like snapshots with captions: A newcomer arrives. What was she doing before—at a Texaco, alone, in the middle of the night? A couple bickers; another relationship forms. They call the wild Russian with the gun “Chicken Man”—a goofy name for a man they fear.

Plawright Majok and Satori started workshopping the story years ago, beginning with a series of scenes and monologues and stitching them together for this world premiere, which closes this weekend. They hope to encourage exploration each night, welcoming the audience-as-newcomers to break bread and lend its own energy to the performance. It’s a different, wonderful kind of theater that won’t leave you thirsty.  

reWilding
With original music by This Bitch Don't Fall Off
Thru Mar 17 at 8, Inscape Arts, $10–$15
(Tickets are sold out online, but there are floor seats and wait-list options. Email tickets@satori-group.com with the date you have in mind to get on the list, or come early the day of the show)