nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
October 25, 2008
One of my favorite quotes about theatre is from Michael Bloom. He says that "theatre has the potential to offer us visions that are messy and conflicting, full and complex." This is certainly the type of theatre that writer and director Caleb Hammond seems to be aiming for, yet his new show 1000 Wolves ends up being too messy as the audience is caught up in a sea of seemingly random and meaningless words, projections, movements, characters, and voiceovers.
Here is what the press release has to say about 1000 Wolves: "The Wolfman lives through the history of the 20th century. En route, he stumbles through layers of time, like the layers of a palimpsest, into the histories of thousands of others just like him; some famous, some anonymous. He puts his ear 'to the heart chamber of the world', and as suggested by Nietzsche and Artaud the result is a beautiful, horrible fragmentation of the self."
Here is what I got out of the piece: Tom is a nice guy. He is friends with the slightly bloodied Buddy Holly. Tom meets Mary at a club, they spend a night together and then she appears to ditch him for a mysterious cowboy (called in the program The Man with Wings under His Long Black Coat. Personally, I didn't see any wings.). Tom is absolutely crushed. For one brief moment, John Dewis, the actor playing Tom, dons a wolf mask. This is the only discernible Wolfman reference. Two cops with flashlights make sporadic searches of the space.
Throughout most of the play, text is projected onto three television screens, a chalkboard, and the stage right wall. These quotidian, disjointed phrases offer no insight into the action onstage, and indeed distract from it. The play moves very slowly, particularly the long monologues, unrelated to the plot (one is a reporter commenting on Berlin), that are whispered into the microphones. The most exciting and contagiously energetic moments are the two motorcycle chases, which are performed with only chairs and the actors buzzing their lips together. A couple of club dance parties and a rendition of the '60s song "Leader of the Pack" are also fun and energizing.
The ensemble works well together, particularly at the aforementioned high energy moments. John Dewis is very likeable, Jordan Harrison's Buddy Holly is both goofy and enigmatic, and Dan Cozzens, as the Man with Wings..., brings a certain threatening coolness. It is clear that Caleb Hammond has a lot of ideas and inspiration. It is also possible that I was not picking up a lot of the references. I look forward to seeing another production by this group that is able to more articulately communicate its themes and insights.