New York | 1h 45m | Already closed

Wolf in the River

From 16 critic and 38 member reviews
Members say: Intense, Edgy, Ambitious, Confusing, Great staging

About the show

The Flea Theater presents this world premiere drama by playwright Adam Rapp about a young girl trapped in a world of neglect, longing for escape. More…

Adam Rapp's new play explores love and neglect, the challenges of poverty, the dangerous cost of shiftlessness, the notion of leaving a place behind, and the value of a girl. This new work by the Pulitzer-nominated writer investigates the yearning to leave your hometown, the drama of first love, and the dangerous cost of boredom, all through the lens of savage small-town America.

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Under Mr. Rapp’s extraordinary direction, the ensemble cast of 'The Wolf in the River' brings the audience to a level of awareness and responsibility the theatre too often buries under the veneer of entertainment and the umbilical cord of numbness. Adam Rapp’s 'The Wolf in the River' is nothing like you have ever seen before and nothing you are likely ever to see again." Full Review


"Magnificently acted, beautifully written, and claustrophobically staged in the round, with a pile of dirt in the center and the cast running and slinking in circles behind the audience, it’s a jolt of dark energy...It grabs spectators in an exceptionally visceral and creepy way, without messy performance-art tricks...Rapp’s text and direction draw out the best from the talented cast...I wasn’t sure what was real and what was fantasy or dream. Yet the story held me from start to finish." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"From the start, there is an instant element of discomfort...'Wolf in the River' is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It will catch your breath and keep you on edge...There were troublesome components to the text but when you’re thrust in a space such as this, the elements will get the better of you and sway the experience into something extraordinary. It’s when you have more time to think about the play that you’ll really start to question 'Wolf in the River.' For good and for bad." Full Review

Ethan Kanfer: New York Theater Reviews

"Always provocative, often poetic, playwright-director Adam Rapp blends the mythic with the mundane in this potent exploration of the tribulations of coming of age in the wild backwaters of rural America...'Wolf in the River' offers an entrancingly primal approach to theatrical storytelling...There are times when Rapp’s dithyrambic dialogue seems be trying too hard...The Bats leap into their roles with their customary zeal, clearly trusting Rapp’s vision." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"At times the constancy of the shouting and the breathless vocabulary of the dialogue can be exhausting. The quietude of this single river scene is something to cherish...The fact that there is such a gentle relationship around which all of this menace occurs only raises the tension. There is an immediacy to the impressionistic appeal of 'Wolf in the River,' but its ideas about the way human beings can instantaneously relate to each other grant it a more permanent universality." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The actors are, for the most part, the resident company called The Bats. They are in high form with Rapp’s work, brave, daring and utterly terrifying. There is a intensity that makes you wonder if this show will turn real and bring you into its midst...Rapp, who also directs, keeps this production alarmingly honest. Despite what is good about this play, the play in a strange way goes nowhere and we never really get to know these characters." Full Review


"Rapp presents a handful of scenes that are among his very best, alongside an assortment of seriously confounding characters and plot contrivances that don't add up to much...The actors bring a fierce intensity to their roles, like sticks of dynamite that have just been lit...'Wolf in the River' ends up feeling more like an overstuffed, undercooked stew of atrocities...That's not to say it's entirely a loss. Amid the gratuitousness is a collection of moments that rank as top-tier Rapp." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"By constantly shifting storytelling styles the aggregate impact of this yarn gets diluted. However, there are vivid performances and haunting moments that will still grab you...The silliness of the pre-show makes it quite hard to take the show seriously, and some goodwill is lost while you try to re-commit to the actual endeavor at hand. But once the play gets going and we get a grip on our surroundings, Rapp’s kinetic writing and intense poetry flourishes." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"Even at the end of the 105 minutes worth of love, loud noises and a twerking sequence with a blown up Miley Cyrus doll, the purpose of the production remains unknown... Rapp’s 'Wolf in the River' is almost like an aged old wine; it is an acquired taste...The play makes you feel an abundance of emotions, ranging from pity for delicate Tana, to terror in the presence of the wolves. But it, somehow, is unable to give you closure or help you unravel meaning and purpose." Full Review

The New York Times

"[The actors] seem to be having just as good a time as Mr. Rapp apparently had writing and directing this tall and bloated tale of nasty doings on the banks of a cannibalistic river...It is easy to imagine 'Wolf' as a collaboration between Tennessee Williams and Erskine Caldwell, both deep in their cups...The artery-clogging prose is enlivened by the vivacious staging...The cast members will be very much in your midst throughout, sharing their glee at the chance to act up a hillbilly storm." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"'Wolf in the River' teeters between fantastic and overwrought...For those who like their theater to challenge them with ideas and images as much as story...'Wolf in the River' has a few problems inherent in the play. The portrayal of these people may be meant as impressionistic, but it borders on vicious stereotyping of them as dumb-ass Southern hicks...The staging has the audience in the mist of the actors, which is mesmerizing." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Though 'Wolf' has trouble sustaining its fever-dream intensity, there's no doubt that Rapp can write...Rapp clearly loves horror, but this attempt to import the style onto the stage doesn't quite work. A few of the flaws are in execution: As a director, Rapp creates inventive environmental staging, but he urges his actors into loud performances rather than frightening ones. Even the dialogue, Rapp's strong suit, turns against him at times." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Rapp and the cast make bold choices and commit to them, but the challenge is having these choices payoff. The vulgarity in some of the scenes can create distance for theatergoers...At the same time there is so much depth to these characters that each of them could have their own play written about them...The violence, nudity and sexual situations do effectively show the characters’ vulnerability, desperation and fears–even when theatergoers have already seen enough." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"‘Wolf in the River’ is a theatrical grotesquerie that allows Rapp to give his fevered imagination free rein; much of it is godawful self-indulgent and overwritten, some of it is moderately interesting, and a small portion is actually quite fascinating...But however much Adam Rapp’s ‘Wolf’ huffs and puffs, it serves as a marvelous springboard for several exceptional performances, most especially that of Kate Thulin, who makes her every unrealistic moment thrillingly real." Full Review


"The play, which has alternate endings, is told out of chronological order so that it makes it difficult to follow...While the audience may be confused, the cast appears to be gleefully enjoying their roles...'Wolf in the River' is more like a 1960’s happening with its non-linear plot line, colorful characters, startling imagery, gratuitous violence, weird goings-on, and use of myth and folk tale. It will not be to all tastes." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A wildly overstaged and mostly incoherent tale...Nothing much happens in 'Wolf,' which fades from one scene of depravity to the next....'Wolf in the River' is a would-be shocker undone by its sheer oversupply of grim and grimy details. Even for playwright Adam Rapp, who revels in the details of various bodily fluids, this one is a bit much. Acting as his own director, Rapp seemingly has no one to point out the moment when his taste for the horrible descends into shtick." Full Review

Ambitious, Great staging, Original, Intelligent, Edgy

See it if You'd enjoy a sophisticated wild disturbing journey which may (or not depending on audience chance) end well. Ambitious & creatively staged.

Don't see it if The ugly, course, sexually threatening isn't something you want to experience-or if you simply prefer your plays to have a clear narrative.

Edgy, Raunchy, Intense

See it if You want to be challenged. This is an adult Lord of The Flies. Very disturbing.

Don't see it if You insist on a straightforward linear narrative. There is a heap of metaphor here. You will have to pay attention.

Ambitious, Enchanting, Great writing, Intense, Riveting

See it if Wish you could have, it was great I hope they publish the play

Don't see it if You don't like intense or uncomfortable subject material (if that's the case stay away from Adam Rapp)

Also I will never forget how incredible this production was, I still think ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Edgy, Great staging, Great writing, Intense

See it if It's Adam Rapp so you know at the very worst it will be amazing. Great set and staged perfect in the round. you felt like you were in it.

Don't see it if you want to be challenged and asked to think.

Ambitious, Great staging, Original, Excessive, Raunchy

See it if You like Adam Rapp's work...even if you haven't liked some of his most recent stuff. This is really good.

Don't see it if You can't handle excess, nudity, violence, etc.

Edgy, Ambitious, Intense, Funny, Great acting

See it if You like Adam Rapp!

Don't see it if You don't like edgy theater.

Great acting, Edgy, Great staging, Intense, Riveting

See it if you like being shaken-up by intense scenes acted brilliantly in an intimate setting that offers no barrier between stage and audience

Don't see it if you want a romantic comedy, are on a first date, or are averse to nudity and violence

Clever, Dizzying, Edgy, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy dark humor and a thoughtful musing about life and the future of our society. My friends and I talked about it for several days

Don't see it if You are claustrophobic or squeamish. The actors are in and around the audience, and the story has a good deal of gore and nudity

Edgy scary charismatic original writing

See it if Rapp's vision of self-destructive white trash in the South is disquieting. Vivid storytelling through violence and outrageous imagery.

Don't see it if Jack Ellis is totally riveting and charismatic. He gives life to Rapp's histrionics. Another shirtless hardbody e.g. Ben Walker, Alex Breaux


See it if You come to Adam Rapp for the strange, unexpected, bizarre (and who doesn't) don't mind the offensive and know the Bats might do anything

Don't see it if You need more than just strange, as the thought provoking, dare I say insightful he sometimes brings to the stage.

Original, Edgy, Confusing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking

See it if You like cutting edge shows and are a fan of anything by Adam Rapp

Don't see it if You expect a clear plot and dislike zombies

Forgettable, Boring, Disappointing, Slow, Indulgent

See it if You enjoy productions off the beaten path, and are open to non-narrative pieces.

Don't see it if You want a compelling experimental theater experience beyond a few moments of "Oh that's clever."

Ambitious, Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Indulgent

See it if You want to see the best goddamn portrayal of someone on a skiff by an actor who's on solid ground.

Don't see it if You want a play that offers anything worthwhile as far as story or message.

Ambitious, Edgy, Great writing, Intense, Riveting

See it if You enjoy art that takes you places you aren't sure you want to go

Don't see it if You aren't into when an artist abuses texture

Original, Intense, Riveting, Thought-provoking

See it if You like dark humor and intense dramatic theater

Don't see it if You are squeamish or a kid

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Edgy, Insipid

See it if You have two hours of your life you want to waste.

Don't see it if You like to be entertained.

During previews
Dizzying, Great staging, Edgy, Great acting

See it if You enjoy non-linear storylines, visceral imagery, and dark (but fun) aesthetics. This poetic exploration of poverty will shock and awe you.

Don't see it if You enjoy traditional and neatly packaged theatre.

During previews
Absorbing, Ambitious, Confusing, Intense, Riveting

See it if Adam Rapp's writing is amazing in this. It's thought-provoking and disturbing and involving and violent. Perfect if you want to be shaken up

Don't see it if You need linear story-telling or the mundane or are disturbed by sex or blood. Not for everyone- compelling if you are willing to be changed

During previews
Original, Intense, Great staging, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy totally immersive theatre. A story that has a lot of dark humor with bright spots that make you feel for the characters.

Don't see it if You have an issue with being surrounded by the story. Issue with a play that messes with expectations and has more than a little darkness.

During previews
Absorbing, Confusing, Great acting, Great staging, Intense

See it if You don't mind having no understanding of a show. The acting, staging, & poetry are compelling. I have PhD in Lit and I was confused.

Don't see it if You mind having no idea of what is going on in the show you are watching,

During previews
Edgy, Dark, Original, Ambitious

See it if you're into dark, theatrical storytelling that pushes you out of your comfort zone. (Great show, but I wished I wasn't on the front row.)

Don't see it if you're squeamish gritty, in-your-face theatre with violence and nudity. Rapp seems to be actively trying to make the audience uncomfortable.

During previews
Ambitious, Confusing, Original

See it if You want an original, interactive theatre experience

Don't see it if You don't like unconventional theatre

During previews
Confusing, Indulgent, Raunchy, Dizzying, Edgy

See it if grimy, immersive production; energetic cast of scantily clad youngsters; choose-your-own-adventure ending, Miley Cyrus lip syncing; donuts

Don't see it if you can't tolerate pretentious, sub-Shepard, Hills Have Eyes gobbledygook. That being said, I kinda dug it -- violence, nudity, song & dance

During previews
Off beat, Ground packing, Notsince sam shepard, Features nudity, Cop out ending

See it if you like admirably physical theatre, [hanging from ropes, wallowing in mud, nudity] & don't mind a circuitous journey

Don't see it if you don't like wallowing in mud, actors hanging over your head on ropes, nudity & a very circuitous journey

During previews
Intimate, Imitative, Transgressive, Intense, Energetic

See it if you'd like a streamlined castoff of a Philip Ridley play. Positives are the resourceful lighting and staging.

Don't see it if an exercise in creating transgressive theater sounds like a bad idea.

Cast & Creatives (22)