Battling Brothers in a Biting “Wolf and Badger”

Main Street Players is coming back from the pandemic with a bang with Wolf And Badger, the first of two world-premiere new plays that will make up the company’s abbreviated 2021 season. 

Intelligently written by Michael John McGoldrick and expertly directed by Danny Nieves, this intriguing offering focuses on the complex and fraught brotherly relationship between Joshua Lyons’ Maddox and Brandon Hoffman’s Landon. 

The play takes place at the home of their ailing mother, whose care the more reserved and responsible Maddox has been managing until now. The biracial Maddox also has a different father than the white Landon, which is but one source of the ample tension between them. 

The characters come from a clearly lower-class background, with opportunity limited and despair plentiful. While the older Landon has landed back at his mother’s in the wake of his marriage’s collapse and turned to dealing opioids after a career as a plumber failed to pan out, Maddox has secured a chance for a better life by signing up for a slot in the army.

All this backstory is slowly revealed through the well-constructed dialogue, in which Landon seems alternately proud of his younger brother’s success and resentful enough to sabotage his slim chances of escape. Things grow even more inflammatory with the arrival of Maddox’s junkie ex Ainsely (Melissa Biblowicz), who drops by asking for a sketchy favor. 

Photography: Olimac Media

There’s a palatable desperation to the trapped characters, made even more visceral by the claustrophobia of its singular setting and is evident in the actors’ electric performances. Hoffman and Biblowicz bring shades of vulnerability and nuance to characters who easily could have come across as cardboard villains. And Lyons, as the more sympathetic Maddox, skillfully conveys his character’s surface anxiety while also indicating the deeper strength it belies.

Though the dialogue’s occasional circularity and plot’s measured pace periodically turned towards the tedious and a few fight scenes, while interestingly choreographed, seemed to come up a little short of being entirely fluid, these were but small blemishes on an overall engaging evening.

Photography: Olimac Media

This haunting glimpse into what the playbill describes as a “forgotten part of America” where patterns of poverty wear away at moral fortitude may leave you with some new insight into the psychological forces that fuel the opioid epidemic. But its use of evocative motifs and poetic imagery elevates it beyond your standard druggie fare. 

For instance, the play’s title and central metaphor comes from a childhood drawing of Maddox’s featuring the two animals, which takes on a grim resonance as he and Landon’s relationship builds towards a charged confrontation that takes on almost biblical overtones in its seemingly inevitable nature. It’s a conclusion that may at first suggest that the corrupt characters who surround Maddox have finally lowered him to their level. But, as the script ironically suggests, this may be a more hopeful development than it initially appears. If violence is what it takes to hold your own in Wolf And Badger’s hellscape, even the virtuous can only stay so pure. 

You can catch the production up until August 29th at Miami Lakes’ Main Street Playhouse. Or, if you’re still not comfortable high-tailing it to the theatre, a streaming on demand version of the production will be available starting this weekend until a week after the show’s close!

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