Appropriating a werewolf tale on the eve of Halloween is a difficult proposition, but what ArtSpot Productions and Mondo Bizzaro's Loup Garou forsakes in toothy horror, it more than makes up for in howling, soul-searching torment set against a backdrop of south Louisiana folklore and City Park's oaks and fields.
In the one-man show, Nick Slie animates the life of Sebastian Coteau, a Cajun infected as a young man by the mysterious creature of the backwoods. His family hands him over to priests to exorcise the demon, but the clergy has no greater remedy than to chain him and pray that the beast expires, even if Coteau is lost in the treatment. His blood boiling with both illness and a fierce will to survive, Coteau frees himself from the rural church, but ahead lies a great struggle with the werewolf's curse.
Under Kathy Randels' direction, Slie's vigorous theatricality fills the field in City Park where the play is staged. Raymond "Moose" Jackson's original script is full of raw poetic tales of Coteau's escape into the wilderness, ties to his ancestry and reenactments of religious and folk customs evoking the rich culture embedded in rural parishes. There's also the bawdy humor of reuniting with his father in a New Orleans barroom. A backwoodsman-turned-oil-field roughneck, his father rages and even tells Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes. The diversions of alcohol and lusty abandon provide no refuge, and Sebastian labors to rid himself of his monstrous burden. He also realizes he bears it for his family and perhaps others.
Slie rampages across the grassy stage, taking up props hidden in the field at every turn: a cross, a coffin, a cast-iron skillet, a statue of St. Joseph. A rusted oil drum cut to serve as a pirogue and a figurative country-swing-turned-oil-platform are some of the more inspired props constructed for the performance.
Coteau's tale gradually assumes archetypal elements of south Louisiana life, from the challenges of Acadian migration to current coastal erosion. The story is both richly detailed and highly symbolic. A more generalized passage taking a broader view of the oil industry's impact is not as seamless or engaging, but Coteau standing atop a makeshift oil platform with a fiery propane torch captures the raw and menacing energy of the industry's destructive effect on the bayous.
The original production is a perfect storm of vivid writing, spirited acting, sound direction, appropriate live musical accompaniment and clever props. It gives the Loup Garou an artistic treatment worthy of its legend. — Will Coviello
7 a.m. Thu., Oct. 22 ; 5 p.m. Fri.-Sun., Oct. 23-25
City Park, Filmore Avenue at Wisner Boulevard, 826-7783; www.artspotproductions.org
Tickets $15 general admission, $10 students/seniors/artists