Monday, August 09, 2010


For her latest play, Wolves, Delaney Britt Brewer is pulling a light Pinter, dealing with the vastness of what's left unsaid, only without the viciousness. But her abortive sentences, absences in time, and subtlety of character require a steadiness of vision that she's not quite up to, and which her long-time director Mike Klar has made even trickier with an awful staging-in-the-round and a meaningless distraction of a set. (Maruti Evans has built a giant tree-trunk that hovers ominously over the stage.) Given the scarcity of information across this triptych of plays--and the weight of each bit--we can't afford to be puzzled even for a second, and yet the show is far too loosely staged to have much of an impact, let alone a sense of connectivity.

On its own, "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," holds up the best: it's the longest, and it gives Brewer the space she needs to develop the relationship between Caleb (Josh Tyson) and his girlfriend Kay (Elizabeth A. Davis). He's clingy, an undefined character with no friends, activities, or goals outside of his dedication to Kay, which is unfortunate since Kay has felt smothered for the last three years (she has "a look like someone is forcing her to breathe"), and is dying for Caleb to take action and assert himself as a man--specifically the independent jock she fell for in the first place. In a series of flashes between present and past, this tenuous relation is tested, first at a New Year's Eve party--where Caleb winds up on Ecstasy, flirting with the young Jenny (an outstandingly open Megan Tusing)--and again in the middle of the woods, after Caleb runs over a wolf and Kay demands that he put the poor animal out of his misery with a shovel. It's not perfect--Kay rather abruptly admits to a friend, Roslyn (Sarah Baskin), that she had a secret abortion, and it's never clear why they're so stuck together--but the play has legs.

"Crying Wolf," however, feels like an amputee, and "A Wolf at the Door" is a quadriplegic short. Brewer's intent is far less clear in these latter pieces, and they come across in scatter-shot fashion. In the former, Julie (Megan Hart) and her increasingly drunk brother, Elliot (Doug Roland), have come to a beach, at midnight, to scatter their mother's ashes--except that that's not what the play's about. Instead, Elliot lightly mocks Julie's sexuality (she's a lesbian) by calling her "dude," and shares the poem he's written for a girl at school (awkwardly beautiful moments like these call to mind Brewer's An Octopus Love Story and show her potential). And the play's not about that, either: Elliot goes off to get more beer, and Julie has a long conversation with her ex, Sasha (a vivid Julie Fitzpatrick), before Sasha reminds her "You know I'm not real," which leads Julie to confess to her brother: "I think I'm. Having a nervous breakdown."

As for "A Wolf at the Door," well, it turns out that Caleb and Sasha hooked up and had a kid named Wolf (Vikki Vasiliki Eugenis), which makes sense only in that it links the three plays (and their title) together. It's a shame, because Brewer's narrative is striking: Wolf reads letters written by Caleb and Sasha that show the widening gulf between them. However, it doesn't work on stage, especially since Wolf merely reads the letters, never showing a reaction. Klar works hard to fix this: he has the adults spin Wolf around (she is sitting on a dollhouse) as if she's a toy to them, and he floods the stage with crumpled letters, letters that profess love without ever meaning it. (This is a nice echo of "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing": "I love you is just the paint on the walls.") But even when the adults speak, the format leaves them distant, which only emphasizes the artifice of this play, and, through that, of Wolves. It's a game between the playwright and director: the audience spins in the middle, trying to sort through the nonsense for Brewer's original wit, only to end up frustrated by how often she cries wolf.

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