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WOLVES, a supposed modern fairy tale, a bewildering experience at convergence-continuum



Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

Steve Yockey’s WOLVES:  AN URBAN FABLE, now on stage at convergence-continuum, centers on three people, Ben and Jack, ex-lovers who still live in the same apartment, and Wolf, a trick that Jack picks up one night at a bar.

Ben, who comes from a small town is xenophobic, agoraphobic and jealous.  He is afraid of strangers and everything that is foreign.  He fears leaving the confines of the small apartment he shares with Jack, his former lover.  Though the relationship is over, as far as Jack is concerned, Ben still tries to cling on.  He attempts to limit Jack’s contacts with the outer world so that Jack will not find someone else and leave Ben.

The haphazardly developed script leaves much to the audience’s imagination.

Questions arise.   Why did Ben leave his small town and move to the big (unnamed) city?  How did this psychologically fragile man/child acquire a handsome lover like Jack?  What does Ben do to make money for rent and pay for other necessities since he refuses to leave the apartment?

Why is Jack, who probably moved in with Ben because he was desperate for a place to stay, still living in the apartment with the smothering Ben?  What, if anything, does he do to earn his keep?  How did the duo meet since Ben doesn’t leave the apartment?  There is a single line, thrown in much like an afterthought, that they used to go out and have fun, but that idea is never developed.

What we do know is that Jack goes out one evening with a desire to meet someone.  The someone turns out to be Wolf, not his real name but so named by Jack because Ben refers to the world outside as a dangerous place, filled with wolves.

Wolf makes it clear, when Jack brings him back to the apartment, that what he wants is sex.  After a series of “getting to know you” short conversations, Wolf and Jack start to make out.  Their actions quickly turn  aggressive, both stripping off their shirts, Jack apparently asking for and getting rough sex.  Ben enters, picks up an axe, and destroys Wolf.  (Why an ax is in the apartment is not explained.  I guess we are to assume that it is there to protect the residents from potential invaders.)  Wolf is chopped up, off stage, and the play ends with some inane conversation between the blood soaked Jack and Ben.

At the start of the play, the narrator tells us that we shouldn’t look for a moral in this so-called modern day deconstruction of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale.  She’s not exactly accurate.  There are topics from which morals can be drawn, for those interested in searching for them.  There is the issue of sex and fear in modern culture.  There is the subject of mental illness.  There is the clash between love and need.   And, there is the issue of the morality of lustful murder.

Yockey is noted for being a poetic playwright who pushes the boundaries.  In spite of some award nominations (“Out” magazine’s top-10-stage plays of 2012, and being a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for best LGBT Drama of 2014/15),  WOLF is not a well-written script.   What the award committees saw as quality in the script is a mystery.

Much of the required exposition is left out.  The tie to Red Riding Hood is shallow.  Jack does wear a red hoodie when he goes out to the bar where he picks up the appropriately named Wolf. The characters are quite one-dimensional.  The script just stops.  It doesn’t end in a conclusion of finality.  I guess we can conclude that monsters lurk not only in the streets, but also within.

The con-con production is uneven.  Director Cory Molner does keep the action moving.  There is a clever use of lighting.

Handsome Beau Reinker has the boyish charm that is character-correct for Jack.  He should be praised for making the most out of lines that often have no written motivation for action.  The rest of the cast are not as successful in developing their roles.  In their behalf, they are often given lines that simply don’t translate well into the meaningful spoken word.

Capsule Judgement:  WOLVES:  AN URBAN FABLE is not a well-written script, nor does it have a compelling story line.  Though some may find the experience of value, others will find the experience bewildering.

WOLVES runs through May 30, 2015, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Road.  Leave yourself time for maneuvering, as much of Tremont is dug up due to the construction of the new bridge over the Cuyahoga.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.