The Love Talker, Defiant Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. Is the woodland charmer of the title a pagan deity, a diabolical child molester, or a mischievous pastoral sprite? Or has he been hallucinated into existence by lonely rural women? And is Bun’s vow to protect her little sister Gowdie from his corrupting influence the act of a courageous guardian, or does it conceal a more selfish agenda?

Whatever your interpretation, the Love Talker is one sexy son of a bitch. And therein lies the difficulty of staging Deborah Pryor’s darkly romantic fable. In our permissive age, which has rendered copulation as ho-hum as vitamin supplements, how does one convey the danger and mystery of uncontrolled libido?

Director Richard Ragsdale does it by refusing to make The Love Talker’s erotic adversaries Barbie and Ken pretty, instead allowing Pryor’s language to establish the feeling of occult forces on the loose. So by the time Kati Brazda’s Bun faces off with Aaron Boucher’s predatory demon, theirs is no dainty MTV adagio but something far more visceral. In our orderly times, the destructive side of Dionysian license may seem a quaint and distant threat. But Defiant Theatre creates sufficiently high stakes in this production to make the triumph or defeat of Dionysian urges a matter of suspense.

–Mary Shen Barnidge