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By Martin F. Kohn
The bible tells us that perfect love casteth out fear. But what does perfect fear casteth out? Pretty much everything, playwright Steve Yockey tells us in “Wolves.” Love, friendship, sanity…
As in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, from which Yockey takes his inspiration, the world can be a scary place. Instead of the edge of a deep, dark forest, the main character, Ben, lives in the heart of a big, nameless city, where there’s nothing wrong about being cautious. But there’s cautious and then there’s Ben.
Ben lives with another young man, Jack. They used to be lovers, but now they’re just roommates. Still, there’s more than a little jealousy in play when Jack gets up to leave the apartment and heads for the corner bar and Ben tries to stop him, worried about all the wolves out there.
To make the audience feel similarly uneasy, director Brandy Joe Plambeck has done something clever in his Ringwald Theatre production. He has fashioned a play before the play, a foreplay if you will.
Arrive any time before curtain time and there’s already action onstage. A man and a woman are having a lively conversation interspersed with singing. They are clearly friends, touching affectionately, but something’s off, besides the disconcerting feeling that you’ve come late: She’s dressed for an evening out, in a little black dress with sparkles, and he’s dressed for an evening in, in T-shirt and jeans. And there’s something ominous in their singing a Damien Rice song about a loaded gun.
Once the official play begins the man (Robbie Dwight) turns out to be Ben, and his BFF (Lisa Melinn) turns out to be the sly, enigmatic narrator. She’s also the playwright’s BFF, because she saves him the trouble of making his characters anything more than one-dimensional. They’re effective spokesmen for their points of view, but as human beings they’re blank slates.
This is not to take anything away from Dwight, Melinn, Artun Kircali as Ben, or Jonathan West as the man Jack brings home from the corner bar, a man he insists on calling Wolf, although that’s not his name. The actors perform with intensity and commitment.
And yes, there is real danger when you let a Wolf into your home, though it isn’t not necessarily what you think it is.
The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. 8 p.m. Saturday and Monday, and 3 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 30. $5-20. 248-545-5545. http://www.Theringwald.com