Travel is a magnifying lens. Our personalities expand, our behaviors exaggerate. We do things we wouldn’t consider at home. We confide in strangers, we make risky and terrible decisions in the name of adventure, we speak our most biting truths.
The Wolfe Twins, Studio Theatre’s Lab Production, is the company’s first commission. And this new play from Rachel Bonds uses the backdrop of travel – Americans in Rome – to explore the many facets of human connections, difficult paths, and what it means to move forward when moving forward means outgrowing once-cherished relationships.
Lewis and Dana, a brother and sister only 11 months apart in age, are taking this trip to reconnect in the wake of their father’s recent death. Lewis (Tom Story) wants to relax and take everything in; Dana (Birgit Huppuch) has researched the city’s every detail and arrives with schedules and dining reservations and hour-by-hour activity allocations. It’s the first of many micro-indications that these two siblings no longer have everything in common.
When Raina (Jolly Abraham)—an enigmatic artist with a penchant for drinking her weight in Italian wine and unearthing other people’s secrets—checks in to the B&B, her presence forces Lewis and Dana to recognize just how great the distance between them has grown.
No one in this play is without a secret, and twist by twist they come to light.
The production aspects of The Wolfe Twins are appropriately sleek. We’re flung into the reception and lounge area of a Euro-styled bed and breakfast. Think Ikea on a grander dime, but with the same obsessive precision, the same geometry of space and things comingling on each shelf. Clearly we’re in a country that respects the art of living.
Indeed, the set is impeccably well done, all crisp whites and reds and straight lines. It feels more refined than the other Studio Lab plays for this reason—no longer the “scaled back” production we’ve come to expect, this could pass for a part of the regular Studio season.
Adding to that effect is the play’s four-character cast, which is nothing short of a powerhouse ensemble. As Lewis, the chatty urbane Manhattanite, Tom Story is a natural. As his tightly-wound and Southern-baked sister, Birgit Huppuch grants subtlety, complexity, and heart to a character who could be challenging to like.
THE WOLFE TWINS
Closes November 2, 2014
The Studio Theatre
1501 14th St. NW
1 hour, 50 minutes, no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Jolly Abraham shows great range as Raina, in turns revealing her as artist nomad, as provocateur and catalyst, and as a woman desperate for independence from her failing marriage. And to round out the ensemble, Silas Gordon Brigham does an exemplary job portraying Alex, the B&B’s proprietor with a thick Italian accent and a past of his own to move beyond. In truth, the performers all take turns stealing the show.
There is one moment, one five-line exchange when the evening has grown too intoxicated for its own good, which struck me as subversive to the point of overshadowing the play’s poignant beauty. But one jarring moment over the course of two hours is not at all bad. This is, after all, a world premiere, and on the whole it is remarkably polished.
At its core, it is a meditation on what it is to try to recover those relationships that once were so close and so crucial, it’s hard to fathom a life without them. It reminds us that everyone we meet has their own complicated history, and no doubt their own allocation of loneliness. Bittersweet and hilarious, edgy and heartrendingly real, this world premiere is an elegy for the things we cannot recover.
The Wolfe Twins . by Rachel Bonds . directed by Mike Donahue . Featuring Tom Story, Birgit Huppuch, Jolly Abraham and Silas Gordon Brigham . Set and Costume Design: Dane Laffrey . Lighting Design: Scott Zielinski . Sound Design: Daniel Kluger . Dramaturg: Lauren Halvorsen . Produced by Studio Theatre . Reviewed by Jennifer Clements.
THE WOLFE TWINS
Closes Nov. 2
Rachel Kurzius . City Paper Making Dana likable is a huge challenge, and Huppuch nails the smile of a person who isn’t very happy
Barbara Mackay . Theatermania Rachel Bonds offers at once too much and too little information to make her characters into people an audience can care about.
Ellen Burns . BroadwayWorld Despite being too long, The Wolfe Twins is provocative and entertaining, and shows a great deal of promise.
Sophia Howes . DCMetroTheaterArts Small, surprising moments are the pleasures of The Wolfe Twins