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THE WOLF IS HOWLING AT THE SHOTGUN PLAYERS, SAME SPACE, DIFFERENT PLACE ‘WOLF PLAY’ IS POWERFUL


“I am not an actor human, this floor is forest earth, and to the left of that glaring exit light, a river flows, You are not what you feel you are, you are a spider the size of your eyelash. Or an eagle flying two thousand feet above our heads.”


Review by Vince Mediaa


The Wolf is howling at the Ashby stage as Shotgun Players continues their 31st season with “Wolf Play," written by award-winning playwright Hansol Jung. Now on the Ashby stage through Oct 7th. Jungs play is a powerful statement about family, hope and fitting in. Directed by Elizabeth Carter she says “As a queer mother, I feel this play in my soul. Queer rights, Trans rights are being eroded in this country, and more and more parents are fearing the consequences of these losses. (This play) allows us to look at ourselves with fresh eyes.” Playwright Hansol Jung was inspired by a series of articles about Americans using "Yahoo message boards, Facebook, and other online sites to 're-home unwanted children, international adoptees, I've always been interested in stories of departure and landing and was considering what roots a person to a place and to other people within it. And how do people make family when the idea of it is no longer bound by a traditional sense of biological family" says Jung.


"Wolf Play" visits many spaces in the “continuum” about a young boy who experiences many changes in his life. At the age of six, the boy has been through three families. The child opens the play as Wolf played by the compelling Mikee Loria he explains “What if I said I am not what you think you see. The truth is a wobbly thing, we shall wobble through our own set of truths like jello on a freight train, and tonight I add a bump to that journey and put to you I am the wolf.” Loria is a tour de force as the Wolf and spirit of the boy. A puppet crafted by the clever Fred Riley is Loria’s spirit bringing to life the six year old adopted boy.


The gripping story also focuses on the issues LGBTQ couples experience in adopting children and the dark un seen ways that youngsters and couples deal with adoption. The marvelous Laura Domingo plays Robin, a mom seeking a child along with her wife Ash, played by the dynamic Gabby Momah explore ways to create a family. Their new son is delivered by his dad Peter played by the capable Sam Bertkin who posted the boy on an internet group chat for adoption. Ash is on the fence with this adoption, Robin thought the boy was 2 or 3, but he is 6. His behavior becomes hard to handle, he is taught boxing skills by his uncle, Ryan played by the full force Caleb Cabrera. Ryan is Ash’s coach and soon feels threatened by the child as Ash spends more time with Wolf. Ash in the meantime is attempting to compete in a Boxing tournament as the boy connects with his second Mother, but still reminding us he is a Wolf and part of his own pack.


“Wolf Play” centers on the two potential parents finding their pack and understanding the issues of the family we’re born into and the family we choose. Sam who is conflicted by giving up the boy to two women on a Facebook ad, continues to argue with his wife about taking the child away from the lesbian couple. The story also explores how difficult it is for adopted children to connect with their new families. After the boy has been through a couple of homes he becomes distant, hard to communicate with and angry with his new family. “We are riding on the back of a giant turtle, hurtling through the cosmos, in a four point five four billion year race against the tiniest of the tiniest white Easter rabbits.” says Wolf. The boy is constantly challenging the fact we are watching a play and the fairy tail that could be his life, his pack, or your pack; and our fairy tale.


Director Carter, creates an intimacy between us and Wolf the majority of the play Loria as Wolf guides the puppet child around the home connecting with the sold out audience. The actors in the cast talk directly with the puppet except for Ash - who makes eye contact with the Wolf boy. Loria's performance is brilliant including his howls and his connection to the puppet and the inner soul for Wolf. With a real time set designed by Celeste Martore that effectively doubles as a family living room and a boxing ring, depending on the scene. Martore allowed for audience members to sit in the wings of the home. Yet the highlight of this craft team is the awesome eerie sound of designer James Ard. The transition arks of the story are rung in my loud sounds and Ard has the precision skill to create a sound track that moves or vibrates through the Ashby and through your seat. The boxing scenes are choreographed by award winning Dave Maier. An important element in this production is Maya Herbsman as Intimacy Choreographer, as some of the audience is on stage especially during the boxing scenes.


The boxing scenes dig directly to the conflict the boy has and the conflict between the Moms and Ryan who feel the child is distracting Ash’s career. Peter - who now wants the child back and will fight the women in court or the subtext fighting ring with the courts. The sound is very effective during the Boxing elements and prop master Vincent Chau includes a lamp that turns into a Microphone that allows Loria to announce the match and howl with pleasure. Chau also includes many cereal boxes, kitchen business for Wolf boy. Stage Managers Kathryn Gubler and Claire Renoe kept the five actors moving on stage with a pace during the hour and fifty minute performance. Costumes by Ashley Renee include a warm Wolf head piece and frisky boxing workout look for Ash. Robin is dressed in pants and a soft top similar to her brother Ryan. The lighting by Stephanie Johnson is effective with pools of light as Wolf breaks the fourth wall, and the boxing is back lit and engrossing.


There is plenty of fighting and toxic love in this play. Wolf attends a yoga class to calm him down, and he boxes as a way to wear him out. This is a beautiful powerful play about family, the ineffective adoption process and it delivers. Carter's direction brings many issues to the table to create theater that pulls us in. Mikee Loria is brilliant as Wolf and both moms Laura Domingo and Gabby Momah are polished as a family struggling for acceptance. Jung’s play doesn’t mark a clear ending but as the final ring of the boxing bell we are left with a powerful final moment that will make you think about new beginnings and hope. “The truth is a wobbly thing.” This is a “must see” and it has been extended through Oct 7th.


SHOTGUN PLAYERS PRESENTS

“Wolf Play”

Written by Hansol Jung.


Directed by Elizabeth Carter


FEATURING

Gabriella Moma, Laura Domingo, Michael Loria,

Caleb Cabrera and Sam Bertken


Through Oct. 7th

Two hours no intermission Free-$46.

Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley. 510-841-6500. https://shotgunplayers.org


Photography by Ben Krantz



Through October 7th Pay What You Can $0–$40; M.A.D. Tickets 25 & Under: $10 with discount code MADTIX; Community Tickets for those facing financial hardship: $15 with discount code COMMUNITY. Trans POC always watch for free with the discount code TPOC4FREE. Live-streaming September 14 & Sept 21: $20






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