feature photo of Kira Player, Makoto Hirano, Matteo Scammell, and Bruce Baldini by Paola Nogueras
Theatre Exile’s Wolf Play by Hansol Jung launches the theatre’s 2022-2023 season and I highly recommend getting a ticket to this performance before it closes on November 20th. Jung’s story follows six-year-old Jeenu (Makoto Hirano), an adopted South Korean boy who’s American family (dad Peter, played by Keith Conallen) decides to rehome him after having a new baby. Robin (Kira Player) finds Jeenu’s photo on a website for children in need of a new home and immediately takes him in, despite the fact that her partner, a non-binary boxer in training Ash (Bruce Baldini), and her brother (Matteo Scammell) are visibly against the situation. They slowly warm up to the boy and want to protect him, though, when they learn that Peter is having second thoughts, especially after he realizes the child will be growing up without a father in the new home.
Wolf Play has an incredible ensemble cast. Everyone is so in sync with one another, weaving in and out with their movements and dialogue. Intense boxing scenes and conflict in the ring elevate the story line and it’s easy to find yourself on the edge of your seat for the 100 minute show. It moves quickly and you’ll be captivated by the characters and their stories as they question whether or not they’re doing what’s right for their “wolf pack”. It would be wrong though not to mention Makoto Hirano’s performance specifically as the show’s narrator (both as Jeenu and the “wolf” persona he’s created) and also navigating Jeenu in puppet form. It’s an intense role that also draws laughs from the audience as the fourth wall is broken often with gestures and jokes. We see the child in him.
This show will certainly pull your emotions in all directions. It highlights the strained relationships between siblings, spouses, parents/children and reminds us of the family we’ve built for ourselves- and why. Our wolf pack. Despite the often heartbreaking scenes, Wolf Play encourages us to fight for the people in our ring and surround ourselves with individuals who will root for us in whatever we do.
More info on Theatre Exile and Wolf Play can be found here. Shows run through November 20th.