The Village Voice once complimented Canadian playwright Brad Fraser for "a grunge sensuality that could seduce a young audience to live theater." The audience for Fraser's Wolfboy on the night I saw it at the Mid-City Theatre was not particularly young, but they seemed to enjoy the drama — if enjoy can be applied to such a dark experience.
The play takes place in an insane asylum. Fred Nuccio's spare set showed two rooms separated by a brick wall but connected by a closed door. The only furniture was a single bed in each room.
Strapped to the bed in one room lay David (Christopher Ramage). When approached by the nurse (Tracey Collins), he growled and snapped. He was the Wolfboy.
In the next room, Bernie (Kyle Woods) lay on his bed. His wrists were bandaged from a suicide attempt. Bernie remained mostly silent and ignored his visitors — the nurse and his dad (Michael Harkins).
The story's naturalism was most evident in the language. "F—king" seemed to be the universal adjective. The pleasantly acerbic nurse blurted out, "Even Florence Nightingale wouldn't put up with this shit."
The drama opens when Bernie passes through the door to visit the Wolfboy, who is strapped down and growls angrily at the intrusion. Bernie teases and torments him, calling him Toto (Dorothy's dog in The Wizard of Oz) to belittle his ferocity.
Wolfboy returns the visit and straps down Bernie while he's asleep. David torments Bernie, whom he dubs Dorothy.
The rest of the story shows the deepening friendship between the two inmates. They both refuse to talk to the psychiatrist but break down and confess to each other what caused them to snap.
In David's case, he raped a 12-year-old girl named Annie, and she hung herself in shame. Annie (Greta Zehner) haunts David in his room. Bernie also suffered a sexual transgression. His parents used to make him sleep in the same bed as a male cousin who demanded sexual favors. Bernie's father visits and talks at length to the (offstage) psychiatrist, but he is unaware of his part in his son's problems. With its twisted sex and lycanthropy, this world is too hellish for a happy ending.
Sue Gonczy's lighting and sound were spot-on. Director Fred Nuccio gathered a strong cast and elicited compelling performances in this difficult, disturbing piece. — DALT WONK