Rajiv Joseph is a playwright making a lot of noise in American theater. The 40-year-old (who served in the Peace Corps in Senegal for three years and what have YOU done with your miserable life?) was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize with his Benghal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which starred the late, great Robin Williams in its Broadway run. And while one can argue over whether a distinction like that truly merits respect (isn't it possible that some years, plays just suck?) as Southern California's most prolific, and terrifically curmudgeonly critic, Tony Frankel wrote last year, there's no denying that theaters love producing his work, as his plays have been mounted at a score of top theaters across the country and he has two world premieres this spring, one next month at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City, and Mr. Wolf, commissioned by South Coast Repertory.
Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR. Tessa Auberjonois, Jon Tenney, Emily James and John de Lancie in Mr. Wolf
Based on the tight and taut work, it's clear that Joseph has a strong and unique voice. What isn't so clear is whether he has that much of interest to say. Some of that in Mr. Wolf may lie in the fact that he's not interested in delivering answers. He's just asking questions--more than 400 according to the program. Those questions range from the first principle of ancient astronomy to why people get divorced, and most of them are posed by Emily James (a current theater student at Cal State Fullerton in a leading role at a professional theater, and if you're a current college student, what are YOU doing with your life?), a 15-year-old who, after her abduction at age 3, has never interacted with another human other than her abductor, a mysterious Mr. Wolf (John DeLance). It begins and ends with questions and along the way are heady issues of God and existence, probed against the backdrop of child abduction and the junction between astronomy and metaphysics.More »