How to Draw Mystical Creatures
nytheatre.com review by Neal Utterback
August 15, 2004
Are you afraid of the big, bad wolf?
Watch Ellen Margolis’s How To Draw Mystical Creatures and you might be. Margolis creates a vibrant portrait of two generations of parents as they discover the limits of faith, the frailty of love, and the power of love to heal and destroy.
Using a nonlinear structure, the play masterfully builds to a frightening climax, twisting and turning all the way. The script is dense with evocative imagery that explores the secret and sometimes dangerous fears of children and their parents. The text merges the real and the imaginary and shows us that most of us live somewhere precariously in the middle. It jumps through time and space; it introduces us to saints and sinners—all of whom are looking for a little peace. To give you any more of the plot details would compromise the wonderful job Margolis has done in layering this tragic mystery.
Directed with care by Michael D. Holmes, the staging does well to keep us on track as we leapfrog through the various story lines. With the help of Jonathan Barsness's scenic design, Holmes makes simple, economical use of the actors who, through well-executed minimalism, pare down the storytelling to its most essential.
All of the actors do a noble job with Margolis’s rich, poetic text. There are times when the performances are a tad presentational to my taste but they're nevertheless worthy of compliment. Special merit goes to David Michael Roth, whom we see grow from a sweet, mother-smothered child to a father himself who must undergo what no parent should.
In the all-too scary world in which we now live, a world where we are frequently on edge about our personal safety and the safety of our loved ones, Margolis’s beautiful and macabre play reminds us that the biggest, scariest wolf is the one in our heads.