nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
August 6, 2010
Delaney Britt Brewer has written three dramatic companion pieces for Kids With Guns' production of Wolves, now playing at the lovely 59E59 Theatre. Each piece has a similar feel: intelligent and quick dialogue between characters who don't really like themselves or each other very much. Each play is well executed with clean staging and a talented cast, yet somehow, the production as a whole left me wanting more.
The play begins with Part One, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, where we follow the sweet-hearted, down-to-earth Caleb (Josh Tyson) as he attends a semi-swanky snob party with his girlfriend, Kay (Elizabeth A. Davis). They are an ill-matched couple in an exhaustingly unhappy relationship. Caleb is a "Philip Roth-style" unsuccessful sports writer who stopped trying. Tyson embodies the character well, making him sympathetic and likable. Kay is a critical, severe, and ultimately unlikable woman who clings to a relationship with a man she doesn't respect. She constantly nags, criticizes and lies to him about things as serious as her recent abortion, but considers herself the victim of this unhappy situation. It is almost as if Caleb has been dropped into a sea of misery as he is surrounded by additional party-goers who lie to themselves about being happy while judging the one person we think might have a chance at finding joy. Even Kay's foil, Jenny (Megan Tusin) is truly off-putting, a rich college dropout who looks down on Caleb's fidelity and attempts to make him feel small as she doses herself with Ecstasy and floats around the stage.
As the couple leaves the party, they hit a wolf, costumed in a suit of paper. As it lays fatally injured, Kay encourages him to kill it while Caleb argues that he would prefer to comfort the wretched creature. This is the longest piece of the evening but somehow feels the most unfinished.
Part Two, Crying Wolf, finds us in the woods late at a night. Two siblings sit outside, waiting for midnight which is the chosen hour to scatter their recently deceased mother's ashes. Elliot (Doug Roland) is well on his way to being a solid alcoholic while his neurotic lesbian sister, Julie (Megan Hart), sinks deeper into a dark depression since her former partner Sasha has left her to pursue a heterosexual relationship. Roland and Hart are strong scene partners. They have excellent chemistry as they portray the adult brother/sister relationship. Julie confronts herself and her fears through what seem to be hallucinations of Sasha.
The final play of the evening is by far the strongest. A Wolf at the Door portrays Sasha and Caleb in their unhappy marriage. They communicate only through their daughter, Wolf, played by Vikki Vasiliki Eugenis, on notes left for one another as they live their lives together separately. Wolf sits on a small, white house that rotates as her parents circle but never address each other directly. This piece is beautifully orchestrated by director Mike Klar and makes a clear and definitive statement about what a marriage can become. It truly was heartbreaking to see the only character I wanted to see succeed, Caleb, become an unhappy, disloyal man who barely apologizes for cheating on the mother of his child. What set this piece apart from the others is that it elicited a response. I felt something when it was over, which was not the case with the two plays preceding it.
Maruti Evans's set design is the perfect mirror of the characters we meet; it feels like an Anthropologie store window dressing. The horizontal downward-facing moon with snow white branches creeping out from behind it is interesting and beautiful to behold. Paired with costume designer Heather Klar's paper wolf costume, a definite feeling of the shallow depth in which these unhappy characters exist is skillfully painted.
The best part of this production is the way these three plays are woven together. Brewer has chosen very specific and somewhat unexpected places to join the triptych and that kept me engaged, yet somehow none of these pieces seem strong enough to stand alone, save, possibly, the last. The theme of the wolf as childhood purity is clever and clear, but beyond that, what is the message? That humans are liars and even those who set out to be happy never will be? That the fate of any type of relationship is doomed from the beginning no matter how hard we try? It's bleak to say the least but maybe with a deeper exploration of characters and a higher clarity of the play as a whole, Wolves could really have something inspirational to say. But then again, maybe "inspiration" isn't the point.