Who let the “Wolves” out?

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from the Brookfield Zoo

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe let the “Wolves” out Saturday night as four Valley actors presented a staged reading of a new Steve Yockey play titled “Wolves.” Yockey’s “Octopus” was part of Stray Cat’s last season and his work appears a perfect fit for Stray Cat audiences.

Seems Yockey has a thing for fairy tales and lava lamps, and for blending comedy with horror. He describes “Wolves” as a “predatory fairy tale for adults” — even referencing Little Red Riding Hood with a red sweat jacket we’re left to imagine hanging on the back of a chair in an apartment shared by two men with very different sorts of delusions.

Imagined because few props are present during a staged reading. In this case the set consisted of several chairs and rooms outlined in tape, and props included a red guitar and an axe. “Wolves” is a bloody affair, but audience members have to use their imagination to get there until the work is farther along in the production process.

Yockey praised founding Stray Cat artistic director Ron May, who’ll soon be presenting his 10th season, for his work with “Wolves” — and noted that the four actors involved made significant contributions to refining the work. After two days of work starting with the customary “table read” (actors reading through the script together), Yockey made several revisions to “Wolves.”

It sounds like he’ll be making plenty more, given his receptivity to several observations and insights offered by audience members. Yokey was enthusiastic about their comments, joking that they beat some of the usual questions (like “How did you memorize all those lines?”) asked by less savvy crowds.

We’re fortunate in the Valley to have a wealth of fresh and experienced talent like performers featured in the Stray Cat reading of “Wolves” — including Drew Leatham and Jonathan Furedy, both seen in Stray Cat performances last season. Also Adam Pinti, who’s sporting a nifty new MFA from ASU. “We snatched him up quick-like,” quips May.

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Of course, I’m partial to Yolanda London. Her credits last season include “THIS” with Actors Theatre, “Avenue Q” at Phoenix Theatre and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” with Black Theatre Troupe — but we’ve been enjoying her work at Childsplay in Tempe for years.

I’m also partial to wolves of the real variety because my son Christopher is big on wildlife education and conservation, having surpassed 1,000 hours of volunteer work with the Phoenix Zoo several years ago (after that I stopped counting).

After you’ve checked out Yockey’s online portfolio and future offerings by Stray Cat Theatre, take some time to explore the wild life and times of wolves in Arizona and throughout the Southwest. Believing their fate isn’t tied to our own is its own form of misguided thinking.

• Eight, Arizona PBS airs “Wolves in Paradise” Wed, Aug 3, at 10pm.

• The Phoenix Zoo participates in wolf conservation and offers related information online.

• The Arizona Fish and Game Department provides information on wolf-related policies and programs.

• The “Howling for Justice” blog offers musings on wolf-related advocacy.

My apologies to octopus lovers for the missed opportunity to cover octopus-related issues during Stray Cat’s last season. But hey, at least I did justice to all those sparrows.

– Lynn

Note: Steve Yockey’s “Wolves,” featuring direction by Ron May, was Stray Cat Theatre’s first staged reading of a new work. Stage directions were provided by Kelly Coughlin-Celaya, and “special thanks” to Childsplay and Alfredo Macias were noted.

Coming up: AriZoni nomination night, More playwriting pearls from Steve Yockey, To baby or not to baby…

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