Wolf Play leads the pack | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Wolf Play leads the pack 

An adoptee seeks comfort and safety in lupine identity in Hansol Jung's latest.

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Claire Demos

Never doubt the emotional layers possible from an expertly crafted, exquisitely manipulated puppet. In the right hands, cloth and carved wood can undergo an alchemy that renders them sentient. Or at least, lulls you into the belief that they are so. That's what happens in Hansol Jung's intriguing 90-minute drama, directed by Jess McLeod. At the heart of Wolf Play is Wolf himself (Dan Lin), an eight-year-old Korean adoptee whose insistence that he is lupine allows him to survive, first in a family that decides to sell him on Yahoo, and next with Robin (Jennifer Glasse), the lesbian who "buys" him without telling her child-averse partner, Ash (Isa Arciniegas). Jung never specifies the circumstances preceding Wolf's adoption, but his attachment to the mammals with whom he shares a name make it clear he feels endangered around humans. Lin gives a smart, funny, ultimately wrenching performance, instilling Stephanie Diaz's adorable, intricate puppet with a mix of childish naivete and feral cunning. It's a performance that will make you ache for the world's unwanted children and for those born to adults who barely know how to care for themselves, let alone their young dependents. At one point, Wolf explains that when an injured wolf is separated from the pack, the only thing his family can do is howl until the animal can follow their voices home. Wolf Play shows that human behavior isn't all that different.   v

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