Orion and the Goatman Review

From country folktales to the strategy for perfecting the s'more to the struggles within a household, “Orion and the Goatman” struggles to be boxed by any definitive genre or structure, and is designed to be such. The two-man, two-act show tells of the Murphy half-brothers Logan and Luke (Lukas Jarvi and Noah Pacht, respectively), and how an annual camping trip turns from a burden upon the brothers into a moment of clarity on the barriers that they have between them, with the assistance of a seven-foot, ten-footed man-eating goat demon from hell.

Just as impressive as the acting, the writing and general performance of the play was the totality of the production that went into it. The play, originally performed in 2021, was created to be staged outdoors due to the sylvan nature of the show, but this year, it has been moved to be in an enclosed studio room. Proper commendation should go to the designers and techs that brought the enclosure to feel outside, by way of lighting, sound effects and more than anything, the fog. The acting stage, in total, could not be more than 10 meters in the walking area, and to make it an entire world in which you care for both characters is a marvel in and of itself; even more when halfway through the play, they are forced into a circle barely big enough for the both of them.

The enclosed setting of the play is fitting. Enclosed within the characters is a story unseen, and largely untold apart from inferences we can make. The two brothers make this camping trip an annual ritual, with them only now doing it without their father — who recently passed away — carrying an urn of his ashes to pay respects. Within this trip, they must recount an old folktale of a supposed half-goat, half-man creature that, as far as they know, does not exist, and shouldn’t play any importance to their lives.

The first half of the play consists of the audience getting to know the two boys and their relationship. Luke, an 18-year-old loudmouth, is as humorous as he is obnoxious and over-the-top, serving as the comic relief and jokester for the duration. His other, and maybe better, half is 28-year-old Logan, a more conscientious and logical fellow who thinks more of the trip as a chore than anything else. One of the main ideas brought up here is the constellation Orion the Hunter, and what it represents for Logan: a hunter and protector among the stars to look upon at any point when one has an unobstructed view of the heavens. It is upon the clouds above that the two boys hope to have their father looking over them from, and so one comes to the idea that perhaps Orion and their father are one in the same. Their adorable, albeit immature exchanges per occasion last a while to situate the audience into a comfortable place, and once put there, the play takes a sharp left.

The introduction of the Goatman is a powerful scene in shifting the entire trajectory of the play. Brewing intensity has us frightened for the boys as a seven foot tall behemoth, resembling more of a wolf than any goat, aims to kill them. They are protected by their father’s ashes, and ward the giant beast away, isolating them within the confines of the circle they created, and so with tensions high, and the audience in wonder as to what they just saw and what will be the fate of the two boys, we receive a wonderful sight of brotherly love.

“We don’t know each other,” or the line which sounded like it struck deep in showing how the relationship between the half-brothers is nothing more than a paper-thin facade that they are both putting up for no reason at all. Domestic fighting, yelling, crying and anger rage through both boys as they come to terms with the fact that they love each other more than they previously knew and don’t want to die in some unnamed forest in the middle of the Southern United States.

They realize that they need each other more than they lead on and for some reason, hold each other in a negative light: a cocktail of envy, disappointment, and wish to impress. It is a satisfying conclusion that they reach. And nearing the end of it all, they end up sharing one last moment together, that being a dance to Steely Dan’s “Peg.” The play lets them have their moment. They earned it for the emotion which they put in, and as the song finishes, rain begins to pour and Luke says the final line of the play: “He’s still up there.” That line, referring to Orion, or perhaps their father.

“Orion and the Goatman” was a fantastic experience which I’m sure is more excellent outdoors. Getting to meet the people who created the play gave an appreciation for it that I couldn’t have otherwise, so to the entire production team, I say, bravo. You all outshined all expectations on this one.