BWW Review: Shaking the Tree's _______ THE WOLF Explores the Imperative, and the Difficulty, of Telling Our Own Stories
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near a forest. Every time she went out, she wore a red cloak that her mother had made, so everyone called her Little Red Riding Hood. One day, she goes into the forest to take some pastries to her grandmother who is ill...
We all know the story. At least, we know the most popular version of it -- the one specifically designed to warn girls about the dangers of straying from the path. It's a warning that following your own desires will result in horrible things happening to you and those you love.
This is the starting point for ______ THE WOLF, a new devised piece now running at Shaking the Tree. The play explores how easy it is to become trapped in these familiar narratives, to be defined by your given role until you lose track of your own voice.
That's the first part. The second part tackles an arguably even more difficult problem -- what to do after you've succeeded in breaking out of the narrative. How do we even start to tell our own story when all we know is the story that's been constructed for us?
Director Samantha Van Der Merwe and the performers -- Jean-Luc Boucherot, Briana Ratterman Trevithick, Anya Pearson, Alex Ramirez de Cruz, and Kayla Hanson -- drew inspiration not only from the folktale, but from the current national conversation about gender, including stereotypes, the politics of desire, slut shaming, #MeToo, and even the men's movement. It's a powerful piece that challenges us to challenge our personal and social constructs about these issues and, hopefully, start to tell a new story.
I'm always conflicted when writing about Shaking the Tree performances, because part of their magic is in their many surprises, and I don't want to give anything away.
So, here are the essentials:
______ THE WOLF exemplifies why Shaking the Tree is the most interesting place in Portland to see theatre. The approach is unflinching, the performances are strong, and the set is incredible. There were a few parts, particularly in the second half, that dragged due to repetition, but I saw it on preview night, when tempo issues are common. I'm sure they have that worked out by now.
A few tips for when you go: 1) I recommend selecting a seat on the same side of the stage as Little Red Riding Hood. 2) At some point, it might be unclear what you're supposed to do. Follow the performers' lead and just step through.
______ THE WOLF runs through November 3. More details and tickets here.