By George Maguire
The redoubtable, inventive Shotgun Players troupe continues its journey into the the realm of high-value, thought-provoking and theatrically-bold selections with Korean playwright Hansol Jung’s masterful and multi-layered Wolf Play.
Directed with whip-smart precision by Elizabeth Carter, the show takes the audience on a discovery trip as we define and then redefine what the words “home” and “family” mean.
Wolf Play tells the story of Jeenu (Wolf) a six- year-old child first adopted by Peter and Kate. When Kate becomes pregnant with her own child, Jeenu is “rehomed” by Peter on the internet to Robin – half of a lesbian couple. Robin’s wife Ash is an aspiring boxer whose life and immediate goals are compromised by the unexpected arrival of the child.
…In a world of its own is James Ard’s glorious soundscape…
Played as a puppet manipulated with insouciant and inquisitive spirit by Mikee Loria, Jeenu is seeking a home and a pack and refers to himself as Wolf. He howls, bays, snarls, and growls with anger as his life is uprooted.
Complications ensue when Peter (played with angst and determination by Sam Bertken) discovers that he has sold the boy to an LGBTQIA+ couple, and wants him back. By this time, having discovered his new “pack,” Jeenu has acclimated himself into the home life of his “moms.” Despite Robin’s motherly warmth, clear love of this child, and simultaneous steel (portrayal by the talented Laura Domingo) it is Gobby Momah’s Ash that the boy eventually identifies with.
One of the joys of the play is watching them communicate. All others look at the puppet when talking to the boy, Ash looks directly at Jeenu. She talks to him, not just about him. Ash is being trained for the big fight by Robin’s brother Ryan (a focused and determined Caleb Cabrero). The characters of Kate the wife and also Ryan and Robin’s Mom are not seen, but are spoken to by the actors in what the reviewer found to be a rather confusing mélange of conversation.
We watch the puppet/boy react with pain, confusion, and tears as his search for family, a pack, is ripped once again away from him. All this culminates in a final courtroom custody battle deciding the fate of the child. The results of that trial won’t be given away here.
Technical elements are good. Stephanie Johnson (whose gorgeous work illuminated Marin Shakespeare Company this summer) brings similar creativity to Shotgun Players. Celeste Martone’s set and Ashley Renee’s costumes serve the play well. The combination of David Maier and boxing consultant Emmanuel Blackwell bring the big match and Gabby Momah’s remarkable reactive punch/foot work to life.
In a world of its own is James Ard’s glorious soundscape. The opening moments with clangs and bells of the ring, are brilliant. The play’s running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission.
Shotgun delivers a play dealing with many current issues of queer identity, broken lives, the vulnerability of children being bartered like animals, and above all, the need for roots, family, a pack.
On Facebook, we see actors referring to casts as “my chosen family.” How long will that last past the closing? We chose family as such for a lifetime of eternal, ethereal connection. Wolf Play helps us clear the air and get to the root of this journey.
ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco-based actor/director and is Professor Emeritus of Solano College Theatre. He is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Written by||Hansol Jung|
|Directed by||Katja Rivera|
|Producing Company||Shotgun Players|
|Production Dates||Thru Oct 1st|
|Production Address||1901 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley CA 94705|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||----|