Cleveland Play House’s ‘Mr. Wolf’ asks what happens when Red Riding Hood emerges from a swell of a beast

April 14, 2016 - garden totes

When 3 immature women emerged from Ariel Castro’s homemade jail on Seymour Avenue in 2013, a star couldn’t get adequate of them. Pictures of a smiling contingent were everywhere, a same faces that had gazed out from grainy “Have we seen me?” fliers tacked to application poles in a unequivocally partial of city where they had been hold for years.

TV interviews, book deals and reported spats followed (“PEOPLE exclusive: Why Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Don’t Speak with Fellow Victim Michelle Knight.”)

But before all that, there was a spectacle of their survival. No one who listened a 911 recording of Berry’s high, girlish voice, fearful and vehement all during once, announcing that she was alive, could assistance yet be moved.

And no one could assistance yet consternation what it was like to go from invisible restrained to tellurian luminary in a time to takes to open and tighten a door.


Mr. Wolf

When: Through Sunday, Apr 24.

What: A Cleveland Play House prolongation of a play by Rajiv Joseph. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli.

Where: Cleveland Play House’s Outcalt Theatre, Playhouse Square.

Tickets: $20-$90. Call 216-241-6000 or go to

Approximate using time: 2 hours and 15 mins including one intermission.

Playwright and Cleveland local Rajiv Joseph wonders that and some-more in “Mr. Wolf,” his entrance prolongation on a Cleveland Play House stage.

His riveting, nightmarish unfolding starts in a book-lined room. A lady is chalking circles on a blackboard and afterwards joining them, formulating a web of constellations.

She jumps when a male enters and she sets about confusing to stir him, reciting theories about swap realities and solar systems as she paces, barefoot, following a concentric circles of a carpet like a star orbiting a sun.

“Is a star indeed infinite, or is ‘infinite’ a general nomination we request to whatever we don’t understand?” she says. “Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical.”

She continues, gaining speed, and it starts to feel as yet her difference aren’t usually to stir yet to deflect something off.

We quick learn why. The lady isn’t a man’s daughter, yet someone else’s child a male has abducted.

His name, reasonably if unsubtly, is “Mr. Wolf” – Theodore Wolf, to be accurate – an astronomy clergyman during a village college who is about to be arrested. He’s played by a good John de Lancie (“Star Trek’s” Q), who brings a creepy enlightenment to a part.

“The star is coming,” he tells her.

The thought terrifies her.

As approach of armament, he has bought her a new winter coat, garish, brightly-colored using boots usually a small lady could adore and “a chocolate candy bar,” a thing she has never seen.

“Peel it like a banana,” he tells her.

“It looks like feces!” she answers.

When she bites into it, she creates an roughly illusory sound – a strangled screech of pleasure – and it’s in that impulse we know that to this girl, a star will be like an visitor habitat, a people bizarre and perplexing.

Still, she likes how a star tastes, vacant during what she’s been missing. But if it means withdrawal Mr. Wolf, she wants no partial of it. Let’s run away, she begs him, her violence rising as secret fists produce opposite what sounds like a steel door.

As a banging intensifies, Mr. Wolf exits in a conform fitting a maniac as respectful as he, and a room starts to move, telescoping backward, flourishing smaller and smaller, decrease into a black starry sky. The lady is now terribly alone in a gigantic universe.

It’s a bravura impulse of entertainment by executive Giovanna Sardelli, Joseph’s longtime collaborator, who final visited a Cleveland Play House to helm a greatest prolongation of “The Whipping Man” in 2012.

That first, brief stage moves as prohibited and quick as lava, now engrossing, afterwards touching, afterwards desolate.

It is Joseph, whose bold, harrowing “Bengal Tiger during a Baghdad Zoo” was a finalist for a 2010 Pulitzer Prize, during a tallness of his powers.

In journal terms, he has combined an overwhelming lead, an intro that final that we review on, inspired to see what happens next.

Who is this nouveau Little Red Riding Hood? What will occur to her now that she has been cut from a swell of a wolf? Where is her family?

The answers come, and with them, an unavoidable cooling.

The rest of a play can’t wish to contend a power of a opening; structurally, it is an extended response to a thespian wound. Such injuries possibly reanimate or fester, and Joseph gives us people grappling with both prognoses.

“How do we tarry a world?” Theresa asks before she is rescued.

“Inquiry,” Wolf answers. “Ask as many questions as we can. People are done worried by questions, and afterwards they will be off-balance.”

From left to right: Juliet Brett (Theresa), Todd Cerveris (Michael), Rebecca Brooksher (Julie), and Jessica Dickey (Hana) in “Mr. Wolf,” a centerpiece prolongation of a Cleveland Play House New Ground Theatre Festival using by Apr 24. 

The lady is 15-year-old Theresa (the revelatory Juliet Brett), yet she looks many younger. She hasn’t had a seasoning of other kids her age, steeped in cocktail enlightenment and weaned on Facebook. Brett’s opening is ineffably relocating since it is so precise. She walks with her hands out in front of her, fingers extended as yet she is contrast a air.

Her relatives are Michael (a touching Todd Cerveris) and Hana (Jessica Dickey, assertive and funny), a integrate that separate underneath a aria of their daughter’s disappearance 12 years before.

Michael has spent a indirect years tirelessly posterior any dead-end lead and hating his ex-wife. The hunt has spin his life, together with her betrayal. He totes around a thick, dog-eared publishing of “rules” he has authored, discipline to keep him sane. (“Do not cry in front of others.” “Do not pronounce to them if they are not there.”)

Hana is stylish and put together – this is not a lady who has to speak herself out of bed any morning. Not usually has she changed distant from a residence they once common with Theresa, she has changed on.

Michael stayed put, changing nothing. All a tchotchkes are in a same place. Even a bath towels are a same, observes Hana, who has flown into city on training her daughter is alive, found not 45 mins from a house.

The usually movement Michael has authorised himself is his matrimony to Julie (Rebecca Brooksher), a lady he met during a support organisation for relatives of blank children.

Their vital room is dominated by dual gallery-sized portraits of their dead daughters, usually one of whom is entrance home. The cinema are eerie, a girls like earthbound spirits silently examination a proceedings.

In one uncomfortably comic passage, Julie and Hana find themselves alone, watchful for Michael to move Theresa behind from a hospital.

Hana fills a overpower with manic observations about Wolf. (“You don’t consider of people like this carrying modernized degrees.”)

Julie, bedraggled, her garments a rumpled afterthought, speaks about Michael: “He has good feelings of fury towards you. . . . we done adult a guest room for you.”

Hana tells Julie, nicely, to f- – – off , “. . .because now we can usually dislike me and we can stop worrying about being polite. . . . So now it’s not awkward.”

Joseph’s not fearful to inject amusement where there should be none, like giggles during funeral, and this sharp, fresh rebuttal is all a improved since it’s so unexpected.

Michael earnings with Theresa, and she is zero like a child they knew; she is as visitor to them as they seem to her.

Her father is literally struck reticent by her unequivocally fleshly existence. Taken when she was 3, she has lived in Michael’s memory for so long, he doesn’t know what to do with a odd, flesh-and-blood teen station before him, still wearing her captor’s gifts – that pompous winter cloak and those shrill using shoes.

And she is so unequivocally odd. She issues robotic pronouncements – “I am a prophet” and “my life is specific to me” and “I am a many critical chairman in a world” – all partial of a programming she perceived from Mr. Wolf.

As instructed, she asks direct, uninhibited questions. (“If he is my father and we are my mother, since do we live in Vancouver and since does she live here?” she says, indicating to Julie. “Who are we again?”)

Most painfully, she asks to “go home” – and by that she means behind to Wolf’s den.

The play is during a tension-filled best when Theresa is interrogating her untimely relatives and a increasingly vibrated Julie or vocalization to group she believes to be Mr. Wolf. She imagines she sees him everywhere – in a alloy who examines her during a sanatorium and a patrolman who questions her about other girls who have left in a area.

It slackens into a obtuse domestic play in scenes we’ve seen before, those between Michael and Hana as they discuss a choices they’ve made, hurl recriminations, afterwards predictably soften, Hana insisting they still adore any other.

Though both are excellent actors, as a pair, they miss a necessary, irritated chemistry and don’t review as carrying once been crazy about any other, robbing their stream alienation of a pathos.

Julie’s digression about a uncanny and heavenly things she recalls about her mislaid child are heart-tugging, yet feel likewise prosaic, roughly obligatory.

It was during these soothing spots in a story that this censor found herself longing, roughly guiltily so, for some-more Wolf. (He earnings as himself all too briefly.) As Theresa says, Mr. Wolf is “the one chairman I’ve ever known.” He also placed her during a core of his universe, something that, as Julie righteously points out, no one will ever do again.

That Theresa can no longer see him is a blow; like Julie, and her relatives when she was taken, she is in mourning, too.

Their attribute is constrained because, to use Theresa’s language, it is specific, rather than generic.

Though it has spin select in a media to “focus on a victims” so as not to give a monsters who harm them some-more airtime than is decent, it’s a tellurian need to know what creates immorality tick.

While many monsters spin out to be disturbingly prosaic – dismissed train drivers or unsuccessful Marines or bullied teenagers – in formulating such an intriguing villain, Joseph has set a trap for himself. Wolf, generally as played by Lancie, is no garden-variety freak. He’s some-more in a capillary of Dr. Hannibal Lecter than Ariel Castro, a sociopath with something to say.

“Mr. Wolf,” like Joseph’s “Bengal Tiger,” works on a hearts as it’s messing with a heads. It also refuses to offer pat answers or an finale tied adult in a neat, splendid bow, all reasons to applaud this finely wrought production.

But that progressing play went further, featuring a suggested man-eater as a scabby non-believer whose spook roams a streets of a ruined, assigned city.

“What if my any dish has been an act of cruelty?” he asks. “What if my unequivocally inlet is in approach dispute with a dignified formula of a universe?” It’s Joseph climbing into a mind of a natural-born killer, and we can’t demeanour away.

If usually he’d let Mr. Wolf unequivocally howl.

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