Is anything as comical as the misfortunes of a well-meaning man? Eugene loves his wife Vilma to distraction. He is not, he frets, handsome, witty or clever.?But he fails entirely to notice that she doesn’t want an Adonis, although she might trade her current squeeze for a little peace and quiet. Eugene plans to make a fortune for her: proof of love she doesn’t need, consisting of money she doesn’t want. Why is he so nervous? Does he sense a rival, circling his prey like a wolf stalking a defenceless lamb?
Ferenc Molnar set his story in 1880s Budapest: it has drunken cavalry officers and outraged countesses, and raises the delicate question of whether a lady’s passions may alter, inwardly at least, if her long-lost beloved returns a great man or a mere servant. The play, like the wolf, seems unsure whether to hanker after greatness or craven crowd-pleasing: as luckless Vilma, Katherine French must anchor all the prating and prancing, and she’s too stiff to find that easy.
Ironically, given its focus on the rigidity of real life, ‘The Wolf’ demands flexibility of its protagonists, and while Alexander Andreou’s morphing predator has the most fun, Brendan Jones breaks our hearts as the dreadful Eugene, trying to buy love that isn’t for sale, and incapable of altering just enough to keep everything exactly as it is.