Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players

Now through October 1st.

By: Sep. 11, 2023
Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players

I love, love, love this production! It hits the trifecta of theatre – great writing, impeccable staging and courageous, authentic acting. Add in puppetry, boxing sequences, and wonderful set design and you’ve got a powerhouse that delivers a cogent, timely message about family structure, fractured humans and gay rights in a unique, totally absorbing structure.

Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players
Robin (Laura Domingo) and brother Ryan (Caleb Cabrera) disagree on her adoption.

The Wolf here is six-year-old boy sold by his overwhelmed father on the internet. Portrayed both by a puppet (created by Fred C. Riley, a renowned local puppet maker) and the actor manipulating it (Mikee Loria), the boy has issues and a broken psyche. Believing he’s a wolf, he is constantly educating us on the habits of a lone wolf. Loria  is fantastic as Jeenu, morphing himself and the puppet into one being. Nimble, emotionally flexible, and charming, Loria endears himself to the audience as we grow to admire his wolf-like traits so necessary to his survival.

Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players
Ryan (Caleb Cabrera) trains Ash for their prize bout (Gabby Momah)

The boy’s  adoptive father Peter (Sam Bertken) delivers the child to a couple, Robin (Laura Domingo), a video game designer and Ash, a (Gabby Momah) pro boxer. Robin’s brother Ryan (Caleb Cabrera) is taken as the new father, but when Ash enters, Peter is horrified to see they are a non-binary boxer. This will setup a battle for the child, one that many gay couples encounter. And there’s many more dynamics at play in Hansol Jung’s brilliant allegory.

Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players
Geenu, the Wolf boy (puppet designed by Fred C Riley III and  actor Mikee Loria)

Robin is having issues with her mother who refuses to accept Ash and now opposes the new child. Ash is concentrating on an important professional bout and can’t be distracted with the kid either. Ryan manages and trains Ash, so his priority is the fight. Only Robin throws herself into the role of new mother. Their interactions with Jeenu all differ and his acting out is causing problems.

We learn a lot about wolves from Jeenu’s fourth wall tidbits, and slowly Jeenu warms to his new ‘pack’, bonding closely with Ash and territorially protecting against Ryan. Peter, separated from his wife and newborn, now wants Jeenu back. And who should get him? A father who sold him on the web or a loving gay couple? There’s battles going on all through Wolf Play as Jung explores major themes of isolation, acceptance, and the redefinition of family.

Review: WOLF PLAY at Shotgun Players
Harried father Peter (Sam Bertken)drops off Geenu to Robin and Ash.

The ensemble acting here is superb and authentic, pulling us into these characters whether sympathetic of repugnant. The boxing sequences, with fight direction by Dave Maier and boxing consultant by Emmanuel Blackwell, are well-done. Scenic design by Celeste Martore, props by Vincent Chau, lighting by Stephanie Johnson, and sound by James Ard are top-notch.

All of these excellent components are synthesized and composed by director Elizabeth Carter, who as a gay mother herself clearly identifies with the material. The staging is wild and imaginative including scenes in the kitchen that involves three different realities happening at once. All combined, Wolf Play is compelling theatre, extremely contemporary yet universal in appeal.

Wolf Play continues at Shotgun Players. For reservations and tickets: Click Here.

Photo Credit: Ben Krantz

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