Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see David's review of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
College professor Mr. Wolf (John di Lancie) abducted Theresa (Julie Brett) when she was three years old. He does not rape her or abuse her. He wants to educate her and make her perfect. He wants her to know what is happening in the world and in the universe and become a prophet. He thinks, as a prophet she will save the world. As the play begins, she is about 15 years old and the police have just found her. Mr. Wolf thinks he has no choice but to kill himself.
Theresa has trouble reuniting with her parents. She thinks of Mr. Wolf and the house where they lived as home. And she wants to be home. For her, home is a room with a braided rug and walls filled with shelves of books. As she remembers her life with Mr. Wolf, she remembers other girls he brought home. They did not have the ability to become perfect and did not survive.
Over the years of Theresa's disappearance, Hana (Jessica Dickey) and Michael (Todd Cerveris) could not endure the strain and ended their marriage. Michael meets Julie (Rebecca Brooksher) at a group meeting of people whose children have been kidnapped and they marry. However, this does not seem to be a strong, solid marriage. The return of Theresa makes the marriage even shakier.
The playwright gives each character an extended scene to react to the recent events. Though all celebrate Theresa's return, each life is upset by her return.
The cast has a difficult assignment. Juliet Brett, as Theresa, has a long difficult role. Brett is in her 20s, yet she takes the audience to a place where a young girl must struggle with big changes in her life. Jessica Dickey makes Hana a bigger than life, brash woman, accustomed to buying what she wants. Now, with Theresa returned, she wants her ex-husband Michael to divorce Julie and re-marry her. Todd Cerveris' Michael dearly loves his daughter and wanted her return, but he is emotionally frozen into silence by the her presence. Rebecca Brooksher plays Julie as a woman on the fringe of the events happening in her home. Yet, she confesses, why should Theresa return and not her child.
I was mesmerized as I watched the story unfold. The playwright challenges the cast and the audience. Fortunately, the cast and director Giovanna Sardelli are up to the task. As I continue to ponder the story, I hope I am up to the playwright's challenges.
Mr. Wolf continues in the Outcalt Theatre, Cleveland Play House through April 24, 2016. For ticket information call 216-241-6000 or visit clevelandplayhouse.com.
Theresa: Juliet Brett