Dog and Wolf
nytheatre.com review by Heather McAllister
February 5, 2010
Dog and Wolf, Catherine Filloux's newest human rights / genocide piece, sets itself up to be an interesting show, with dual subjects of the surprisingly laborious and tedious process of obtaining political asylum, and the horrifically engrossing massacre and survival of the Bosnian people. It promises in its title to explore the thin dividing line between friend and foe, but to me that isn't the main thing the play is about.
The main point explored is survivor guilt. Not how we come to terms with it, or make our peace with it, but rather how we let it define us. How sometimes it makes us cower, but other times it gives us beauty and strength.
As an academic piece, this is interesting stuff, well worth checking out. The ghostly grip of the past is as strong as a skeletal hand rising from the grave. But the lack of chemistry between the actors prevents the piece from rising above an intellectual exercise.
Joseph, played by John Daggett as an icewater-in-his-veins wheelchair-using attorney, represents Jasmina, Nadia Bowers's tough, sexy, survivor and would-be refugee. To prep for her political asylum hearing, he picks her brain and casually has her relive her horror with no apparent grasp of her pain. Jasmina flirts with the shut-off Joseph, perhaps clinging to life however it comes along, perhaps personifying the irony of a savior complex in a woman without faith; it's murky. As the story progresses, both characters change their stance—their truth is liquid, flowing across the ocean, across time. While the reason for Jasmina's change (which I won't spoil) is obvious, the change for Joseph is unsupported by the action and the actor. To believe the incredible lengths traveled both literally and figuratively by them on their journeys, I wanted some sort of visceral connection. But I didn't feel the passion. And I wanted to—God, you care for these people, you want them to figure it out, but the light at dusk is just too dim; is it a Dog or a Wolf indeed?
The simple set by Anna Kiraly works perfectly, with her moody slide projections/films highlighting the action; panels that swing open or shut to change the locale, clever lighting by Michael Chybowski, and evocative sound by Robert Murphy.
Bowers's Jasmina, and the characters embodied by Dale Soules—the Judge, the Mother, the Woman—are incredibly complex, contradictory, maddening. Surprising. They personify love, loss, and what remains in a beautiful, frustrating, poignant way. Daggett is quite convincing as the cold and clipped lawyer, not so much as the Lothario.
Most of all, I love the bizarre parts of this play, the chilly whispered peace of the murdered like a nightmare flowing red under the calm surface of a dream. The terror and tedium of existing in a groundless, godless world. Fear, all around us, fear. Maybe the friend or foe of the title refers to the bony grip the past holds us in. How the past can be one or both, and how we manage to survive the unthinkable without losing our sanity, our selves, our humanity in the process.