Photos by Luis Escobar, Reflections Photography Studio

This production was scheduled February 29-March 17, 2024.

There are some unexplained, and in the end unexplainable, happenings in Wolf at the Door, PCPA’s intense and haunting staging of Marisela Treviño Orta’s 2018 play that paradoxically explores the very real and very contemporary issue of domestic violence.

A four-person cast, three women and one man, carries a heavy load during this 90-minute examination of expectations, loss, heartbreak, and violence in a marriage. In many ways the husband, played boldly and without apology by guest artist Kevin Rico, has the least complex path through the play as he ultimately—and unfortunately—lives up to his own and to our expectations.

Second year acting student Edella Oroz Westerfield, who masterfully displays both strength and fragility, plays his wife Isadora, who with the help of the play’s two other characters discovers that bravery and change are possible.

Guest artist Wilma Bonet convincingly plays Isadora’s supportive companion who has witnessed the young bride’s journey from her loving family to her husband and his inhospitable rancho where the play’s action is set.

The character who most expresses change, however, is really not of our world. The playwright has written the role of Yolot, an impressively physical and sometimes delightfully comical Christen Celaya (a PCPA resident artist), as the embodiment of a shape-shifter who connects this world with another based on Latino folklore and Aztec mythology. This vigorous, but in ways equally vulnerable, creature helps bring one woman’s out-of-balance-world (at one point Rocio complains that “the chickens won’t eat and the milk’s gone sour”) back into balance with a satisfying end to one man’s bluster and bombast.

Director Marilet Martinez reflects the myth and symbolism in Orta’s work by carefully syncing the actors’ movements with mysterious music and the howling of wolves, a feat accomplished in no small part thanks to the work of sound designer Ben Lechtman. A brilliant full moon overhanging many scenes also stresses the connection between human and nature on the wrap-around elegant set designed by Jason Bolen in PCPA’s Severson Theatre, with lighting by the incomparable Jennifer “Z” Zornow.

An impressive follow-up to last season’s powerful production of The River Bride, also written by Orto and directed by Martinez, Wolf at the Door puts the mysterious and the unexplainable to work in service of survival and solidarity.

One note of caution: the play depicts scenes of violence, particularly domestic violence, that may be difficult for some to experience.

:: Charlotte Alexander