"The Wolf at the End of the Block" Review- Teatro Vista Launches a Strong Ike Holter Premiere

Teatro Vista is currently presenting the world premiere of Ike Holter’s new play, “The Wolf at the End of the Block”, at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, through March 5, 2017. Tautly directed by Artistic Director Ricardo Gutierrez, and starring the mesmerizing quintet of Sandra Marquez, Gabriel Ruiz, Ayssette Munoz, Bear Bellinger and James D. Farruggio, this is a perfectly timed and intensely nuanced piece about the meaning of reality to those who have lived in fear and poverty in a racist world. In a larger sense, though, it is about the importance of truth, particularly in this spin-doctored age.

Bear Bollinger and Gabriel Ruiz

 Two events have occurred in the real world; one of the happenings is over-shadowed by the other, but the truth about the first is a strong reflection on the truth about the second. A theft has occurred from a safe- and a man has been beaten up, in an allegedly racist-inspired hate crime. Who has stolen from whom is actually waived- and who has attacked whom is revealed, but along the way, we learn a lot about love, personal image, loyalty, and pride- both false and otherwise. To explain further would be to give in to “spoiling”, something this reviewer is loath to do.

Ayssette Munoz and Sandra Marquez

 The writing here, manifested in dialogue, is stark, simple and beautiful. The acting is incomparable. The hubris displayed is unique. The messages here are framed as imperatives. Parenthetically, in the law there exists the concept of “clean hands”- one should not point a finger at another when one has dirty hands. Finally, in the way we live our lives and in how we deal with others, there has to be a bottom line, a grounding. The end does NOT justify the means, and it takes someone with the class and courage of Ike Holter to develop that truth in such a way that we are all helpless to deny it is so. 

Gabriel Ruiz and Ayssette Munoz

Holter, the 2014 Tribune “Chicagoan of the Year for Theater”, often writes about urban issues- sexual and racial differences, and he does so with relentlessly fast-paced dialogue. “The Wolf” hurtles along at breakneck pace- it was actually amazing that the actors, particularly Sandra Marquez as the almost unbearably intense reporter, were able to enunciate their staggeringly clever and very pointed lines with the “attitude” they required. Bear Bellinger’s character, in particular, also graced those lines with an incredible amount of physical comedy and hubris. Gabriel Ruiz was stunning as the emotion-driven target who wants nothing more than to redeem himself from being thought  stupid. Ayssette Munoz was incandescent as the ingenue with more love even than moxie. And Jim Farruggio was nothing short of spellbinding in his effortless transitions. 

Gabriel Ruiz and Sandra Marquez

The night I was there, the audience collectively leaned forward and absorbed the words with rapt attention. There was also a lot of delighted laughter- the play contains light moments as well as darker ones; it’s a chiaroscuro of human drama and intensity. Chicago audiences have come to expect excellence from this playwright and this theater company, and in this collaboration, they will not be disappointed. Kudos to Milo Bue for chillingly correct  set design, Diane D. Fairchild for wonderfully subtle lighting, completely believable costumes by Uriel Gomez, and spot-on sound design by Eric Backus.

Bear Bollinger and James D. Farrugio

“The Wolf at the End of the Block” is exceptionally well-done, and it’s highly recommended.

 

 

For information  about and tickets to all the fine productions by Teatro Vista, go to the Teatro Vista website

 

 

 

All photos by Joel Maisonet

 

 

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