Wild Goose Players in Putney

Eliza Klein as Bronwyn and Colin Hinckley as Estevez 

For a theater company with a moniker inspired by a pursuit that ignores the odds and obstacles, its latest play lives up to its namesake. 

The Wild Goose Players will present its second show, “Food and Shelter,” for six performances, Friday, January 21 through Sunday, January 23; and Friday, January 28 through Sunday, January 30 at Next Stage Arts. 

Written by award-winning playwright Sean Hurley, former radio journalist, New Hampshire Public Radio contributor and creator of “Atoms, Motion, and the Void” (voted best podcast in New Hampshire), it is directed by David Stern. Stern, former artistic director with Main Street Arts, helmed the company’s productions of “Chicago,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Secret Garden” and “Sweeney Todd” at the Bellows Falls Opera House. 

He leads The Wild Goose Players with Sandy Klein, creative director at New England Youth Theatre; it’s the house company under the umbrella of Next Stage Arts Project in Putney. 

Stern describes the story on the Next Stage Arts website as a “darkly-moving fairy tale about love and the script as “‘Hansel & Gretel’ meets ‘Waiting for Godot.’” 

It follows a pair of newlyweds—Bronwyn (Eliza Klein) and Estevez (Colin Hinckley)—who are both carrying deep, dark secrets as they spend a night at a cabin in the snowy woods. Although the cabin provides food and shelter, the description reads, “it seems that someone, or something, is determined to never let them leave.”

There is a third character, Frank Hill, in the play, who is played by five different actors. Stern said Hill is not human in a conventional sense. 

“He’s the embodiment of the forces that drive the environment in which the two leads find themselves,” he said. 

Hurley’s piece, he went on, is a magical realistic piece in the style of Gabriel García Márquez (“Love in the Time of Cholera,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude”), whose work uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations.

“There are things that happen; dead people come to life,” said Stern, who said the play is not a ghost story, “and there are things that don’t happen. It isn’t spooky; it isn’t a whodunit.”

The performance space has been completely transformed to accommodate Stern’s complex set design. The show also has original music being created by internationally known composer/sound designer Greg Wilder, and movement choreographed and sometimes executed by the LOOM ensemble, divisers of dance-theater. 

“It’s technically-challenging and a huge challenge for the actors,” said Stern, “but the chance of true excellence still exists. I know what this play is worth. If it is revealed fully, people will be in tears and laugh all the way until they sob. It will be this incredible experience.”

In his 40 years working in theater, Stern called “Food and Shelter,” a thinking/feeling person’s play, one of the best he’s ever read and the one he is most excited to bring to audiences. He’d put it with Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams in the canon of English literature.

“Every bit of dialogue pulls me into (the characters),” he said, “and it has an abstract meaning that moves underneath it that is just so compelling, ephemeral and poignant.”

The Wild Goose Players will present Sean Hurley’s “Food and Shelter” Friday, January 21 through Sunday, January 23; and Friday, January 28 through Sunday, January 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Next Stage Arts, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test within 48 hours will be required for entry. Masks must be worn while inside the venue. Tickets are $35-$40 and can be ordered at https://nextstagearts.org