A delightfully strange twist on the Little Red Riding Hood story, Wolves, a new play by Steve Yockey at Actor’s Express, provides ample opportunity for coffee-house discussion afterwards. Filled with subtle and obvious subtext and symbolism, it is one of those plays that can’t be fully digested at the theater.
On the surface, the play creates a modern fairy tale set in contemporary society. Instead of a little girl being preyed upon by the Big Bad Wolf, this psychological drama has characters being haunted by fears that loom over them throughout the production.
The play takes advantage of the fairy tale to create the foundation for the story, and it cleverly avoids the trappings of becoming preachy while it tells us that the only wolves that we should fear are the ones inside us. While the fact that the characters are gay (except for the narrator) has meaning, the underlying themes are universal, allowing everyone to find a personal connection to it.
Each of the actors on stage gives a strong performance under the brilliant direction of Melissa Foulger. Clifton Guterman is captivating as the tormented Ben, who is afraid of the big city and the wolves it contains. His passionate performance grows stronger the more besieged the character becomes.
Moving the story forward and commenting on the action, Kate Donadio’s narrator is fascinating. With the enthusiasm and cheer of a kindergarten teacher, she devilishly controls Ben’s actions, making the character memorable with her sinister smile.
Both Joe Sykes (Wolf) and Brain Crawford (Jack) create compelling characters. Crawford’s Jack is vulnerable, yet determined as he tries to break free from Ben’s self-imposed sanctuary. As Wolf Sykes’ shy, unassuming character elicits sympathy, and his powerful demeanor, which is wolf-like, alludes to the idea of a wolf cloaked in innocence.
A sort of Dexter meets Once Upon a Time hybrid, Actor’s Express’ production of the world premiere Wolves provides an entertaining and shocking theatrical experience. It may not be the flavor-of-the-day for everyone, but it is a prime example of what theater should be: bold, provocative and deep. This risky play is perfectly fitted for Actor’s Express.
Wolves runs through December 2, 2012 at Actor’s Express. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show is a brisk one hour and ten minutes with no intermission.
– Kenny Norton