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Child Scare: “Wolf Play” reviewed

“The truth is a wobbly thing,” according to Wolf. He is the title character of Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play, but he isn’t the central one. That’s Jeenu, a six-year-old boy portrayed by a puppet manipulated by the show’s narrator, Wolf (Mitchell Winter, reprising his role from last year’s the Soho Rep run). Jeenu was adopted as a small child and has essentially been sold, through a Yahoo message board, by his first adoptive family to another. All that makes the exchange real is a power-of-attorney contract and a heartless-sounding “affidavit of waiver of interest in child.”

When the puppet is introduced, he goes by the name Pete Jr., and he’s being dropped off by his adoptive father, Peter (Christopher Bannow), into the house of a queer couple in San Francisco. Robin (Nicole Villamil), one member of the couple, has adopted a son without consulting Ash, Esco Jouléy), a boxer, who is nonbinary and referred to as Robin’s wife. As Pete becomes Jeenu, he’ll drastically affect  the relationships between Robin and Ash as well as Robin and her brother, Ryan (Brian Quijada).

The meta (and metaphorical) ground keeps shifting beneath the feet of the characters in Wolf Play under the visceral direction of Dustin Wills, who turns the MCC space into a virtual playground, repurposing props across the stage with an almost balletic sense of choreography (You-Shin Chen designed the set, Patricia Marjorie led the prop team, and Amanda Villalobos designed Jeenu). Yes, Wolf Play disguises a melodramatic child-as-chattel storyline thanks to its theatrics, but the style here is the substance. The truth may be a wobbly thing, but Wolf Play is solid as a rock. It’s one of the best shows you’ll find on the New York stag all season.