Crying Wolf; ‘The Wolfe Twins’ at Studio Theatre
The Wolfe Twins, by Rachel Bonds, is a World Premiere by Studio Lab, which features scaled-back productions of provocative new plays. First-rate acting and directing characterize this initial offering of the new commissioning program; a tale of intimacy gone wrong, as an estranged brother and sister attempt to re-connect on a trip to Rome.
There is something innately moving about the premise; a brother who wants to get to know his sister after they have grown apart in adult life. The gifted Ms. Bonds, whose work has been developed or produced by South Coast Rep, Manhattan Theatre Club, and The McCarter Theatre, among others, has a unique sensitivity to dialogue and a fine ear for modern locutions, both between strangers and between family members who know each other only too well. Her wit is palpable, and there is a subtle current of unease which grows throughout the piece and ripens into larger conflicts.
Lewis (Tom Story) turns in a splendid, multi-layered performance, although Lewis himself is not particularly likeable. The same holds true for his sister, Dana, beautifully played by Birgit Huppuch. As children, they would get together and “interrogate” their classmates, in a game of bullying-a-deux.
Alex (Silas Gordon Brigham), the Italian who runs the bed-and-breakfast where the twins are staying, is much more sympathetic. He is careful and polite, and extremely dedicated to his job, but there is an underlying sadness underneath his accommodating manner which is very touching. He seems more genuine than the Americans, and less self-involved. Mr. Brigham’s performance is affectingly honest.
Raina (Jolly Abraham) is a talented and successful artist, whose husband is perennially just about to appear on the scene. Ms. Abraham’s performance is exceptionally fine. At one point, Lewis and Dana attempt to “interrogate” her, and her continued willingness to engage with them is poignant and, in a way, disquieting.
Mike Donahue’s direction is flawless, with some delightful touches of physical comedy. Set and Costume Designer Dane Laffrey has a flair for color, and his set and costumes complement one another with ease. Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski’s work is impeccably suited to the tone and style of the production. Sound Designer Daniel Kluger has made some eclectic and intriguing choices, which mirror the emotional intricacies of the play.
Small, surprising moments are the pleasures of The Wolfe Twins; Alex’s sadness as he straightens the picture of himself and his brother; Dana’s ambivalence about the way she parted from her son Charlie; and Lewis’s pain as he attempts to reach out to Dana after a difficult confrontation. These carefully crafted revelations make The Wolfe Twins well worth seeing.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.