If you’re looking for an evening of escapism and suspension of belief, A Wild Play is not the show for you. If you’re looking for an evening of contemplation and art that challenges you to do more than sit sponge-like in your Fringe chair, welcome. Welcome to the jungle.
A Wild Play opens in the forest. Or maybe a forest masking as a stage, or a stage fronting as a jungle. I told you, an evening of contemplation. Leading man Squirrel is in love with Clover, who has become “wild.” Clover then incites Autumn, who believes she is merely on an audition, to take Clover’s wild place by giving her Autumn’s soul. The three go on to wrestle with ideas such wildness, behavior, attraction, humanity, existence, role-playing, and a bevy of other themes as they battle it out together in the wilderness.
The text is, for lack of a better term, heavy. It is heavy with theory and deliciously complex thought. There is need for audiences to harbor philosophical interests to enjoy the work, however, there is need, for the actors to slow some of the deliveries and allow audience brains to catch up with the frenzied pace. I give playwright Robert Cousins much credit for this bold and beautifully written piece. His work forces audiences to engage their brains in a time when entertainment is commonly valued over real creation.
Not to say this production isn’t entertaining as well. The actors are vivid, and one never tires of watching their metaphysical and hyperactive awakening unfold (though you may feel tired at the thought of embarking on it yourself). Their physical comedy keeps the piece from becoming trapped in its own train of thought, and the balance rings true.
The cast is talented, but young, and as a result the show’s content occasionally reads with the angst the frustrations of a thoughtful young adult. I’d be interested to watch the show performed with an older cast, as I imagine it would operate successfully on a different level.
Ultimately, A Wild Play haunts and sticks. Are we earnest? Are we acting? Are we conscious? Are we doomed to repeat the wild play forever? As Claude Lévi-Strauss said, “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”
A Wild Play has 4 more performances at Wonderbox, 629 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.