Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Call of the Wild

Duke City Repertory Theatre
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Rob's reviews of The Moors and The Effect and Dean's review of A Delicate Ship

Danielle Robertson, Jeff Anderson, Ezra Colón,
Catherine Ames, and Mikael Ayele

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The only problem with Duke City Rep's The Call of the Wild is that it's only 40 minutes long. But don't worry, it's so energetically and professionally performed that you get your money's worth (especially since Duke City Rep has the lowest ticket prices in town).

It's like the CliffsNotes version of Jack London's book. Or maybe the CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes, but nothing seems to be lacking. It tells the famous story of a pampered dog from California finding his true wolf nature in Alaska, after having passed through various hands, some caring, some cruel. It's all done with whipcrack intensity, and is one hell of a workout for the six actors who play all the roles, both human and canine.

The action is so incredibly well choreographed that I would call it a ballet with words instead of music. The actors and director John Hardy collaborated on the movement, and one can only wonder how many hours of rehearsal it took to hone this to perfection. They call it a "platform staging," since all the action takes place on top of or around a bare wooden platform in a small performance space. No props, no set design, no sound design, well-designed all-purpose costumes by Amelia Ampuero but no costume changes, and excellent lighting by Chesapeake Dalrymple. They keep it simple, but that's all you need when you have the right talent.

All six actors are terrific. Pride of place goes to Ezra Colón, but only because he plays Buck the dog, the protagonist of the piece. (I don't know if Jack London was the first writer to make an animal the main character of a novel, but Buck is certainly the most famous that I can think of.) Jeff Andersen (who does a very credible French accent), Mikael Ayele, Danielle Robertson, Amelia Ampuero, and Catherine Ames play many other characters, including sometimes being sled dogs or wolves or trees or the wind. It shows how much you can accomplish with creativity and imagination alone. Who needs high tech?

This adaptation of Call of the Wild was written by Catherine Bush and intended for young audiences, but that doesn't mean it's just for kids. It's wonderful for any age. If you do have some young people you'd like to introduce to live theater, this should really turn them on.

The Call of the Wild, through March 25, 2018, at Duke City Repertory Theatre, 2420 Midtown Place NE, Suite D, in Albuquerque NM. Performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00, Sunday at 2:00. Tickets are $12. Info at Duke City recommends this show for ages 10 and over; some scenes might be a little too brutal for young children.