2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Domestic Animals’

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“I have trouble distinguishing things that are real from things imagined.”

This is the reality we enter when we meet Lori, the “lone wolf” of the deeply moving Domestic Animals. Beautifully directed by Linda Lombardi with a talented cast of three and a smart, funny, poetic script by Jennifer Faletto, I found myself taken on a wonderful journey of love, entrapment, loss, and letting go.

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Set in 1970 Kansas during the Vietnam War, the play follows Lori (Christine Callsen) confined to a mental hospital in the aftermath of learning her partner Matt (Jeremy Hunter) is missing in combat. She’s a woman who’s lost a lot in a short amount of time, and she’s learning to cope alone. It’s beautiful symbolism: she’s like a wolf in a cage, strong and full of energy with nowhere to channel it; desperate to be free but with nowhere to go, and she knows she needs help. Callsen plays this heartbreakingly.

Equally moving are the performances of Andrew Keller, who transitions seamlessly from his role as Lori’s brother Lee into the role of Josh, her nurse, and Hunter, who also plays Lance. All 4 male characters, each in their own way, act as guides along Lori’s series of “reality checks”, and both actors move effortlessly through each role. It’s lovely to watch.

Although time passes within the storyline, all the action is continuous, and the scene changes were just as seamless and subtle as the performances. Christopher Annas-Lee’s set and lighting design are reminiscent of the wilderness at night, with stalks of wheat and dry grass ringing the edge of the stage, illuminated in green and blue. It’s very pretty and effective, like where a wolf would live. Candice Newton’s costumes and Jess Hoover’s sound design are also lovely.

Ultimately, the story shows, people are like a wolf pack: we have just as much potential to be dangerous if we can’t run free, and it’s against our nature to move alone. You can’t tame a wolf. But wolves are adaptable animals, like us, and sooner or later, whether real or imagined, we find that there’s always a glimmer of hope.

Running Time: 70 minutes.

Domestic Animals plays through Saturday, July 25 at the Logan Fringe Arts Space – Upstairs – 1358 Florida Ave NE. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit their Capital Fringe page.         

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Read the preview article on DCMetroTheaterArts.                                  

RATING: BEST OF THE 2015 CAPITAL FRINGE FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Emily Gilson
Emily Gilson makes art. A DC-based actor, rescue kitty mommy, historian, and professional Christmas caroler, she loves all things nerdy, British, chocolately, and caffeinated, and moonlights as a front-of -house staff person and walking tour manager at Ford’s Theatre when not creating things. A native Washingtonian, Emily holds a double BA in Drama Studies and Medieval History and Literature from Purchase College, SUNY, has studied with the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and the Theatre Lab, and is a 2012 alumna of the Overtures musical theatre intensive at Signature Theatre. 2015 will mark her 3rd season as a company member with 42nd Street Singers, a costumed caroling group comprised of local musical theatre and opera talent. She thinks it would be awesome to be able to time travel and is entirely unashamed of having seen 'Phantom of the Opera' – the first show she ever saw - roughly once every decade. www.emilygilsonactor.com