Review: Wolf Sounds (Peanut Butter People)

Wolf Sounds Cast Photo

Wolf Sounds, a play by Toronto’s Peanut Butter People, is an invitation to a sacred space; Check It Out!

Wolf Sounds, the play currently being produced by Peanut Butter People at The Box, is a complex, engaging, and ultimately incredibly rewarding exploration of human connection, sexual desire, and loneliness produced by a collective of talented young people with special needs.

The play explores these themes through a series of artistic impressions that suggest a story, rather than through story arcs. Each scene, vignette, and dance explores a particular aspect of one these themes or a particular experienced emotion, as the artists guide the audience from an experience of being disconnected to an experience of being hyper-connected.

In a typical performance art style, Wolf Sounds defies theatrical conventions and uses the stage they’ve been given in surprising and fascinating ways. What makes Wolf Sounds so astounding is that it also defies mainstream narratives for people with special needs and invites us to view the experiences of these characters that are rounded, vulnerable, and real.

If it sounds like it might not be your thing, you might want to re-think missing this unique and gratifying experience. My friend who saw the performance with me isn’t normally a fan of performance art, but was so engaged by Wolf Sounds and by the discussions it spawned. I think that people like her are the audience that would benefit most from seeing this performance.

And Wolf Sounds is not a story about experiences that are exclusive to people with special needs. Its magic lies in its being an achingly universal story about human longing and desire. In many ways it is relatable because it is so simple.

The play opens with a very moving dance piece, in which Amelia — played by Amelia McAfee-Brunner — watches the people around her connecting with one another and trying desperately to be recognized by any one of them with a simple “Hello.” I found it impossible not to be sympathetic when she is ignored through the whole piece.

But show isn’t built only out of lonely, isolated pieces, either. Victor Pereira’s solo dance to MKTO’s song Classic is exceptionally hilarious, as is the scene in which Amelia learns the secret to attracting men: making sure to bump your hips while walking in heels.

The latter joke, which reoccurs throughout the performance, leads to what might be the most fascinating aspect of the play. When Amelia goes to seduce her crush, played by Dylan Harmon, she finds that he instead wants to “explore his feminine side” and borrows her shoes.

What follows is a fascinating exploration of gender identity through a character that is introduced as a male and then appears as a female through the remainder of the show. What is most exciting, for me, is that this change is accepted with next to no conflict. It adds an unexpected dynamic to Amelia’s search for connection without degrading the process of gender transitioning.

In fact, the scene in which Harmon’s character does his make-up for the first time, and then helps Amelia with her make-up is one of the play’s most genuinely touching scenes.

The play doesn’t shy away from other depictions of sexuality either. There are two dances in particular between Pereira and one of the female cast members that are brazenly sexual – even by most dance standards – that absolutely blew me away.

Every moment in this show is packed with latent energy and an immediacy that had me hanging off the edge of my seat. Normally when a show affects me this deeply I want to preserve it and remount it endlessly, but this performance feels so individual that I don’t think it could ever be performed again as well as it was in this run. I want to thank the creator/performers for letting me in to their sacred spaces for the hour I was there tonight. It was a real honour and a privilege.

Brooke Banning, Lindsey Chalmers, Nicole Flynn, Dylan Harman, Amelia McAfee-Brunner, Victor Pereira, and the rest of the company of Wolf Sounds you have created something very special and you should be so proud of this show. Thank you for sharing this show with me.

If you want to be as overwhelmingly moved as I am by this performance, check it out in the next two days before it is gone!

Details

  • Wolf Sounds is playing until July 27 at The Box (89 Niagara Street)
  • The show runs Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm
  • Ticket prices range from $20-25, with a $5 off student discount available and are available online at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Photo of the cast of Wolf Sounds by Biserka Livaja.