“Wolves” – Stray Cat Theatre and “Back Home for the Holidays” – iTheatre Collaborative

This review aired on KBAQ December 10, 2012


Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center
Tempe, AZ

“Wolves,” Stray Cat Theatre’s world premiere production of Steve Yockey’s play, is a gross and vile theater experience.  It includes an axe murder and gallons of fake blood as it makes its morbid and violent way through a plagued relationship.  It establishes its point about how a deranged mind can turn an already awkward situation outlandishly extreme.

The play looks at a pair of gay guys and their bizarre relationship that never really takes off as things challenge and divert them.  More specifics would spoil “Wolves” and the intrigue it creates after a physical relationship ends but the pair continues to live together.

There’s nothing wrong with Ron May’s sharp and forceful staging or the excellent cast that tackle the challenging roles plus the play’s excesses with believable determination. Yolanda London holds the play together as a dispassionate Narrator who makes several wry observations about the characters extreme behavior.  Tyler Eglen starts out cool and together as Ben but when his current mismatched lover, Jack, lets his eyes wander, Ben becomes a madman.  Samuel E. Wilkes’ Jack also starts out low key until the unfolding events turn him sheepish and fearful, as he suddenly values his life.  Adam Pinti plays Wolf, the man who comes between Ben and Jack.  Pinti plays his role perfectly as he transitions and grows as the script’s bizarre extremes play out their consequences.

“Wolves” is a violent play but one that points out the horrors that relationships can take.  It continues through December 16 at the Tempe Performing Arts Center.  For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-634-6435 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: C

iTheatre Collaborative, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

On a much more pleasant note comes a delightful holiday show that entertains with festive songs you probably haven’t heard before.  iTheatre Collaborative’s “Back Home for the Holidays” features Jeff Kennedy and seven local singers who present a generous selection of holiday tunes that result in a charming diversion.  Singling out any of the seven singers – Jackie Steward Hammond, Erahn (Eron) Patton, Scott Schmelder, Terri Scullin, Brian E. Sweis, Julia Thomson, and Adam Vargas – is impossible because they all sound fine and each presents solos and/or duets plus several strong ensemble numbers that showcase them all perfectly.  Kennedy crafts the show, selects the tunes, and creates charming patter that, in a low-key way, teaches about the tunes.  “Back Home for the Holidays” has played for several years and how I’ve missed such a delightful showcase and such a nice tribute to the holidays escapes me.  It should become an annual holiday tradition for local audiences.  “Back Home for the Holidays” continues through December 22 at the Herberger Theater Center’s Kax Stage.  For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.itheatereaz.org.

Grade: B