THE HUNT Misses Its Target — Review


Tobias Menzies and Raphael Casey | Photo: Teddy Wolff

Juan A. Ramirez
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February 25, 2024 7:00 PM

One of the purest nightmares is to be believably accused of a crime you did not commit. Hitchcock knew and built an entire oeuvre out of this “wrong man” anxiety – and his stories didn’t involve crimes as egregious as exposing yourself to a child to whom you’re a beloved teacher, and whose parents are close friends. It’s dreadful, stomach-turning stuff. 

So why, then, doesn’t The Hunt – David Farr’s stage adaptation of Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-nominated film, which he wrote with Tobias Lindholm – trust that story to create an effective human drama? Directed by Rupert Goold, this ultra-sleek production now at St. Ann’s Warehouse exerts too much on visuals and overreaching themes, ultimately failing the central performance by Tobias Menzies.

Howard Ward, Aerina DeBoer, and Lolita Chakrabarti | Photo: Teddy Wolff

He plays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher dealing with a recent divorce and hoping to win back his son, Marcus (Raphael Casey). In his small Danish town, Lucas is well-liked by the school head (Lolita Chakrabarti), his hunting buddies and, most of all, the children. One of them, Clara (Kay Winard at the performance I attended; alternating with Aerina DeBoer), even develops a crush. Smarting from his refusal, she spins the first thread of what becomes a web of accusations in which the innocent Lucas gets tangled. 

Clara’s parents (MyAnna Buring and Alex Hassell, who had already been fighting seek to accredit their child and displace their issues onto Lucas’ recent (off-stage, unexplored) marital woes. But here arises one of the production’s main problems: though Menzies has all the menace of a handsome barista, we’re repeatedly told his character is a cold, unknowable stranger. Compelling as Menzies might be, he lacks the knee-jerk discomfort someone like Mads Mikkelsen, who played Lucas in the film, can elicit.

He is also rather poorly placed within the context of his bros, including Clara’s father. They crop up often; to chant overly solemn Scandinavian songs (“This is our country…” on cue after Lucas first hears of the allegations), discuss Marcus’ upcoming “initiation” into their group, and just generally be guys being dudes. Farr’s script inches towards saying something about alpha male culture – perhaps as it is entrenched in the Nordic folklore evoked by cold-water swim scenes and fur headdresses –  but ultimately doesn’t.

MyAnna Buring and Tobias Menzies | Photo: Teddy Wolff

Es Devlin’s set, while minimalist and beautiful, also never reaches a satisfying use. The glass tiny-house at its center spins, fogs up, reveals and conceals different characters, but to no fulfilling end. By the nth time a character within the house knocks to be let into the scene, you begin to wonder on what logic these overused axes spin.

And logic, tales about mob mentality remind us, is usually the first to go. As the townspeople freeze Lucas out, you begin to wonder where the usually requisite interrogation scene might be. Clara is incrementally shown throughout as being quick to buckle under questioning. Actually annoyed at the fuss she has caused, she seems eager to wake Lucas from his nightmare. But to do so would be to drive a reasonable stake through the heart of the production, which insists on pitchforks and torches – literally, by the end – instead of simply investigating our basest instincts.

The Hunt is in performance through March 24, 2024 at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Water Street in New York City. For tickets and more information, visit here.

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Juan A. Ramirez

Juan A. Ramirez writes arts and culture reviews, features, and interviews for publications in New York and Boston, and will continue to do so until every last person is annoyed. Thanks to his MA in Film and Media Studies from Columbia University, he has suddenly found himself the expert on Queer Melodrama in Venezuelan Cinema, and is figuring out ways to apply that.

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