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National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
By Marisela Treviño Orta

Kitchen Dog Theater

Director – Christopher Carlos
Stage Manager/Technical Director – Jeremy Escobar
Set Designer – Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting Designer – Linda Blase
Costume Designer – Korey Kent
Sound designer – John M. Flores
Props Designer – Cindy Ernst Godinez
Fight Choreographer – Bill Lengfelder
Assistant Stage Manager – Cole Shafer
Master Electrician – Troy Carrico
Electrician – Jeremy Escobar
Manager of Literary and Community Initiatives – Haley Nelson
Graphic Design – SullivanPerkins

Isadora – Alejandra Flores
Yolot – Kristen Kelso
Rocio – Delores Godinez
Séptimo – Ruben Carrazana

Reviewed Performance: 4/13/2019

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

WHEN & WHERE: Once upon a time. Mexico. A hacienda far from anything. Winter.

Inside is a young woman, Isadora (Alejandra Flores), enduring the pain of impending childbirth under the care of her servant Rocio (Delores Godinez). The hacienda and all that is in it, including Isadora, belong to Séptimo (Ruben Carrazana), who treats his wife, his horse, his servant and all of nature with unyielding cruelty. Into this setting comes a naked and pregnant feral woman, Yolot (Kristen Kelso), who is captured by Séptimo and chained to the bed in the hacienda. And in the countryside, surrounding the house is a pack of howling and very hungry wolves.

Kitchen Dog Theater has led us into the dark and foreboding land of fairy tales, where the veil between spirit and the material is split and sometimes violence must be done to achieve redemption. In Marisela Treviño Orta’s lyrical play “Wolf at the Door”, we are party to a magical tale of those who are subject to tyrannical rule seeking freedom through the bond they have as women and as heirs to the wildness of nature. The act of childbirth opens something inside themselves which gives them courage and connects them to the spiritual essence of life. It is a beautifully written play.

Christopher Carlos has given this play the feel of a classic fairy tale, which tend to emphasize the darker parts of humanity. He doesn’t shy away from the displays of domestic abuse and violence that occur. Bill Lengfelder has choreographed the fights to have a visceral feel and the actors commit to it and make it seem uncomfortably real. Mr. Carlos also gives us moments that are other worldly and with light and sound make us feel that reality is crumbling, and we are now in the realm of dreams.

Clare Floyd DeVries has provided a wonderful setting for this tale. We are in a well-appointed hacienda, where the bed has been moved in to the living area so the pregnant wife could have the warmth of the fireplace during the winter cold. We also see the barren landscape past the walls which harbors the wildness that will soon enter the house. There is also a barn and other playing areas which make efficient use of a limited space.

The costumes by Korey Kent give a credible sense of place and the lighting design of Linda Blase takes us from reality to fantasy in dazzling fashion. I can’t say enough about the sound design of John M. Flores. The relentless wind of the desolate land and the howling of the wolves drives the story and the addition of wonderful music give the whole proceedings a mystic aura.

Isadora is the heart and spine of this piece and Alejandra Flores plays her with her whole being. From a wealthy family, Isadora is deceived by Séptimo into marrying him, and now views her husband with fear and obedience. After she endures the pain of childbirth and encounters Yolot, who she defends against Séptimo’s violence, she finds she has new strength and confidence. Ms. Flores clearly shows the transition Isadora makes and her scene near the end where she must make a hard choice to hold onto what she truly loves is powerful and heartbreaking.

In the program, Delores Godinez informs us that she has not been seen on a Dallas Stage since 2012. It is wonderful to have her back. Her portrayal of Rocio is touching and real. Rocio is devoted to Isadora but berates herself for not having the courage to stand up to Séptimo. She also blames herself for the marriage because of a secret she harbors. Ms. Godinez radiates love and care and regret and, in the end, finds herself capable of great acts of bravery.

As the wild spirit being Yolot, Kristen Kelso is riveting. Her low crouch as she walks around the room give her a wild and dangerous appearance. There are moments where she locks her gaze and listens, her eyes glinting with dangerous glare of a trapped animal. Ms. Kelso conveys the rage of the wild and the helplessness of her situation of being collared and chained to a bed authentically. As the play progresses and, through a shared experience, she identifies more with the other two women and she straightens up and stands on two feet. Even then, there is an eerie air to Ms. Kelso that lets you know that her character is not of this world. She does a remarkable job.

Although the hacienda is surrounded by wolves, the real beast of the story is Séptimo. Ruben Carrazana makes him painfully real. Ravaged long ago by his uncaring father and his six resentful brothers, Séptimo is determined to get what he wants in life whether it is through deceit or force. He rails against the wolves in the hills and vows to kill them and anything else that might thwart him. Mr. Carrazana gives the character moments of vulnerability, such as the pain and rage he feels in recounting his past. But the character ultimately gives into his animal instincts and vows to do whatever it takes to gain status and fame. It is an uncompromising performance and Ruben Carrazana delivers it with skill.

Kitchen Dog Theater invites you to spend a dark night in the theatre to witness a fairy tale. It may not offer happily ever after, but most fairy tales are interested in more important things such as morality and love and courage. And “Wolf at the Door” takes us through the darkness of the soul and offers us hope. You will be greatly rewarded by seeing it.

Kitchen Dog Theater
National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
April 11 – May 5, 2019
Thursday-Saturday at 8:00PM
Sunday at 2:00PM
Benefit Performance Friday, April 26 at 8:00PM
The Trinity River Arts Center
2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180,
Dallas, TX 75207
For information and tickets call 214-953-1055
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