by Hansol Jung
directed by Jess McLeod
The Gift Theatre
July 15 – August 18, 2019
Reviewed by Ruth Smerling
GIFT THEATRE EXPLORES THE NOTION OF FAMILY IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY
I am highly in favor of technology. I think the internet is the greatest thing there is. You can shop, browse, pay bills, open a bank account, work from home, fall in love – there’s a lot that can be done on the internet. The big problem with freedom and ease is that it is easily abused in the wrong hands. Suppose people were able to adopt children on the internet? Is that okay? Is there enough substance there to do a background check and see if this is the best way for a child to live? Playwright Hansol Jung muses over this very question in Wolf Play, now performed at the Gift Theatre under the direction of Jess McLeod. It has been described as “a messy, funny, disturbing theatrical experience” and it gets no argument here.
Tim Martin is Peter, a father who is struggling with trying to unadopt his son (who is actually a puppet, carefully guided by his wolf spirit (Dan Lin)). This poor little boy is forsaken when his mother finds herself pregnant and having to take care of a newborn. With the crying, diapering and work involved, a young boy tearing the house up is just going to be too much. Peter goes into a chat room online and finds a couple, Ash (Isa Arcienagas) and Robin (Jennifer Glasse). He is surprised to find that they are a happy lesbian couple but it’s not a deal breaker. Ash is a boxer and Robin is more passive and ready to take on the responsibility of a child. They feel confident because they have Ryan (Al’Jaleel McGhee), Robin’s virile brother to help.
When Peter meets the family he feels the love but he’s a little apprehensive about leaving his boy with them. Something is a little off but he can’t identify it at the moment. Soon the little boy (being brainwashed by his wolf spirit/puppeteer) is starting to destroy property and act violently. He’s a burden instead of a joy. Even though Peter has signed the child away, he still keeps stopping by, racked with guilt or nostalgia. He’s sorry, but he just wants to check in on his son. It seems that no matter how concerned Ryan is or how aggressive Ash is, this young fellow needs a daddy and a mommy to keep himself balanced. Is playwright Jung commenting on the balance of power in a family? Or does a child instinctively bond with feral energy when it cannot reach out and touch a loving mom and a strong male figure? All these questions could be very real in this day and age when marriage has become less traditional and more emotionally guided.
Do the best families consist of mom, dad and a sibling or two? Or do the best families love each other and support each other? To come from a loving home, even if the two parents are of the same gender, sure beats the pants off of an abusive, dysfunctional home that drives a kid into the streets and sometimes an early grave right? Wolf Play is as thought-provoking as it is arty, not taking a moral stand, but hoping to confuse and confound an audience into examining the new way of life that has become our modern world.
Wolf Play runs through August 18 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Avenue, at the corner of Lawrence and Milwaukee. Accessible by the #56 Milwaukee, #81 Lawrence or the Jefferson Blue Line stop. Tickets are $40-$50 and can be obtained by phoning the box office at 773-283-7071 or by visiting www.thegifttheatre.org Guarantee seats throughout the season subscriptions are on sale now.