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Fetes de la Nuit

Dog and Wolf

Catherine Filloux's drama about a mysterious woman and her lawyers proves to be unfocused and unconvincing.

By New York City
John Daggett and Nadia Bowers in Dog and Wolf
(© Steven Schreiber)
John Daggett and Nadia Bowers in Dog and Wolf
(© Steven Schreiber)
Catherine Filloux's Dog and Wolf, now at 59E59 Theatres, takes its title from the French expression "Entre chien et loup," which describes the dusk when one can't tell a dog from a wolf. It's unintentionally apropos since the play initially seems to be one thing -- a story of political intrigue -- but instead proves to be an unconvincing and unfocused relationship drama.

The play gets off to an interesting start as we watch tough-minded Jasmina (Nadia Bowers) submit to an interview with Joseph (John Daggett), the immigration lawyer who has to decide whether to plead her case for political asylum. Jasmina is stubborn and not entirely co-operative, balking at the idea that she needs to falsely declare herself a Muslim when she is in fact an Atheist. Joseph, confined to a wheelchair, seems to have little patience for her attitude and for her loose grip on the need to shape her story for presentation in court.

Initially, her story doesn't hold together -- even her name is not decidedly clear as she talks of gunfire at her door and of decade-long persecution without making known what's behind it. Things between the pair seem to change when Jasmina recounts her sister's rape and murder at the hands of soldiers in her home country. (The moment is one of the most effective for Bowers, who holds the attention and credibly suggests Jasmina's traumatized past.)

These first scenes in the play present Jasmina as a mystery woman with a secret -- an expectation that is emphasized when Jasmina betrays Joseph's exhaustive coaching and sits silent on the witness stand at her immigration hearing. When the reason for this behavior is revealed much later in the play, however, it turns out to be nothing but an unconvincing plot device to motivate Joseph across the globe to locate her. His search leads him to the wise straight-talking proprietress of a tavern (Dale Soules, also pressed into entirely convincing service elsewhere in the play as Jasmina's mother and as immigration judge), who sits him down for a great deal of exposition.

Apart from two isolated stylized solo scenes which make use of Robert Murphy's effective sound design -- one of Jasmina having an anxiety attack and another of Joseph having a slightly surreal dream -- the material isn't especially theatrical. Director Jean Randich employs video projections, presumably for visual interest, but they are needless and intrusive. Meanwhile, the eventual developments between Jasmina and Joseph are not convincingly rendered, despite the committed efforts of the actors.


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