Theatre Review: The Wolf Tales an Innovative Take on Judgement
So often in life (and fairy tales) we make an assumption about a particular object or character. We question motives of others in regards to their actions or place them in little, labeled boxes to categorize them better. In life this can prove a poor decision, yet in literature it can serve as symbolism. Take for instance, the wolf. Wolves frequently find themselves cast as villains in children’s stories, but for what purpose? CATCO is Kids’ newest original work, written by producing director Stephen C. Anderson, takes a look at the wolf’s plight from his perspective.
Set in a woodsy courtroom, the Wolf faces trial in a class action suit filed by the three little pigs, the mother of the boy who cried wolf, Peter (of “and the Wolf”), and Little Red Riding Hood. The audience finally hears his side of the story as he testifies and cross-examines his accusers in this very funny show.
The four performers work together well to tell their tales. Ben Hartwig, Cassie Gress, and Emily Turner portray the varying “victim” roles with gusto. Hartwig gives the best performance I’ve ever seen of him as Peter. Japheal Bondurant plays a sassy yet respectful wolf in a role that almost seems written for him (though it was not; I checked). He gives an imaginatively captivating and fun performance as the good-natured wolf that merely found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Director Joe Bishara keeps the production flowing with interesting blocking that should allow for the entire audience to see the show in the tricky Studio Two space. With varied story-telling techniques including puppets, integrative sounds by Keya Myers-Alkire, and “rewind” scenes, children of most ages should find the show palatable for even the shortest attention span.
The theater also provides a useful guide in the program for children educational purposes. More resources are available online. Adults can find a great deal of humor in this originally funny story. Indeed, I overheard many adults commenting post-show about how much they genuinely enjoyed it.
Especially intriguing to me, though not intentional according to Bishara, is the fact that they cast the Wolf with an African American actor. I do not normally acknowledge race in a show when it is not immediately relevant, especially since the theater claimed it non-intentional, but it seems impossible to ignore in the context of the show. Peter’s testimony subversively implies ignorant bigotry and tension between the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Turner) suggest fearful racism. The Wolf rhetorically questions why—wonders why people’s instant reaction to seeing him is fear that he would eat them. I cannot help but draw parallels to the slew of stories regarding racially charged assaults and deaths; this coincidental situation takes a really good script about respecting and not making assumptions about others into a fascinating show about respect, fear, tolerance, and wolves.
The Wolf Tales runs a fun forty-five minutes that everyone, even those without children, should go see.
Feature Photo: Ben Hartwig, Japheal Bondurant, Cassis Gress (back from left to right) and Emily Turner (front). Photo by Joe Bishara.
The Wolf Tales plays until March 16, in Studio Two of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Sat & Sun. at 1 pm and 2:30 pm; Sat., March 15 at 4 pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children. More information can be found online at CATCOistheatre.org.