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BWW Review: Howling at the COYOTE MOON

Hawkins as Frank (left), Stacey Garbarski as Jenny, and
Jajewski as Pete.
Photo credit: J Miner Photography

Frank's loved ones don't know where he is, but Frank's destination wasn't exactly a "where". It was the aversion of the "were".

Frank thinks he is a were-coyote -- yes, you read that correctly. Not a werewolf -- a were-coyote.

As far as he knows, Frank was attacked by a coyote and has woken up on two separate occasions naked in a pool of blood. And he doesn't remember a thing about the previous night, which makes the situation all the more frightening for him.

He believes that his loved ones are in real, mortal danger if he remains with them. So, despite the consequences of "abandoning" his pregnant girlfriend, he vanishes.

As Coyote Moon, a new comedy by Sam D. White being produced by Mercury Players Theatre, begins, Frank has just returned back to his mother's bar The Happy Corners Tavern on the eve of the full moon and chains himself to the deck to keep himself from running amok when the "change" happens.

Bar regular Pete (John Jajewski) runs into Frank (Desmond Hawkins) right after he has chained himself up and Pete promises Frank that he won't speak a word of the were-coyote to anyone. And Frank, who is known around town as a prankster, gets a lesson in folklore from Pete about the symbolism of the coyote.

In lore, the coyote is a trickster who is never satisfied waiting around for something to happen and plays pranks on everyone to pass the time. One prank results in the scattering of stars, which prompts the coyote to howl at his creation in the night sky.

But Frank's girlfriend Jenny (Stacey Garbarski), his mother Barb (Deborah Hearst), and former classmate Alden (Edric Johnson) aren't as quick as Pete to believe Frank's cockamamie story.

Hawkins, who is alarmingly well versed in the art of howling, is the likable main character Frank who is willing to own his mistakes. Although White's play is a comedy, it often touches on legitimate problems of trust and familial support. Frank is the jokester of the bunch and he is just as vulnerable as everyone else.

Garbarski and Hearst are also unafraid to delve into the serious side of their characters' relationships with Frank. The trio is poised to turn from absurdist comedy to searing anger at the drop of a hat.

To offset the mood are Jajewski and Johnson who offer comic relief at the most opportune times -- albeit usually at the expense of Hawkins' antics.

The direction of David Pausch eases this production along nicely -- giving the performers the opportunity to engage their comedic chops while not forcing them to rush through the more dramatic scenes.

Pausch's direction is especially essential in sections of the play that run long.

Ric Lantz's set is wonderfully rustic and the touches of disrepair connects brilliantly with the disrepair of the characters -- the set design lends itself to the nuanced nature of this play.

Coyote Moon is peculiar.

It's not necessarily going to leave audiences howling with laughter, but it's funny. It's absurd, but it's also very real. It's full of completely inane, but completely valid fears.

So, if you head over to the Bartell Theatre before the 23rd, just follow the howling and you'll know you're in the right place.

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From This Author Amanda Finn

Amanda lives in Madison, WI and joined BWW in the spring of 2014. She has relished every moment spent in a theatre since then. She (read more...)