Jordyn DiNatale and Katya Campbell in Recall
(© Adrienne Campbell-Holt)
Jordyn DiNatale and Katya Campbell in Recall
(© Adrienne Campbell-Holt)
Eliza Clark's terribly intense and vividly imagined new play Recall, now at The Wild Project, is, unlike too much theatrical fare, not easily forgotten.

Set in a "Big Brother"-like totalitarian state, the work focuses on a single mother Justine (Katya Campbell) as she tries to protect her teenage daughter Lucy (Jordyn DiNatale) from being "recalled" (a process by which one's memory is erased in an effort to cure psychopathic impulses) by the government.

As the play opens, Lucy is scrubbing blood off a carpet with no emotion. Justine sits and watches. It's clear she's been bad but to what extent, we don't yet know -- just that they now have to move and adopt new identities. Clark, who has real knack for suspense, keeps these details hidden until the right moment and mines the mystery for deadpan comedy.

Campbell gives Justine a wide-eyed optimism and desperation for companionship, while DiNatale deftly mixes extreme nihilism that's tempered with her crush on a boy, Quinn (Owen Campbell), at her new school. He's on a list of kids to watch and they bond over being outcasts.

She pegs him as the guy who would plan an attack on the school -- to which he simply responds that he doesn't have the resources. This uneasy comedy gives way to more hardboiled exchanges as we meet Charlotte (Colleen Werthmann), an employee at the recall center who gives us a window into why Justine and Lucy are running.

What makes the play really work is how effectively Clark draws her characters with nuanced dialogue that never seems forced or in simple service of the plot as is a common pitfall with thrillers. She doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere, allowing the story to richen organically, yet there's a definite pace to the action, and it's not uncommon to find yourself on the edge of your seat.

Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt handles this rich terrain with aplomb and is aided by John McDermott's simple yet evocative set and Grant Yeager's astute lighting that brings each scene into focus. The stage may be small at Wild Project, but Clark and her collaborators have created a big world.