Theater Review: ‘Selvaggio’ promotes creative passion

Kristina Bugante
Editorial Director

For any person who longs to create — whether it be a writer, a photographer, a designer, a musician, or in this case, an artist — the best type of inspiration comes from when you surrender yourself to the thing that you are most afraid of.

This rings true in “Mission Selvaggio,” a meaningful and original play written by Cole Wagner and directed by Cody Goss.

Wagner, senior theater major, headlines as the Artist, whose creative and imaginative urges are combatted by his restrictive job at a publishing company and his bad-tempered boss, played by senior theater major Marc Okimura.

In a late, work-filled night, the Artist brings out drawings of five different characters he created three years ago. As he starts recalling the backstories of these characters, they crawl out from the paper and come to life. The audience is then taken through each character’s complex background.

Title character Selvaggio, played by senior theater major Daniel Ramirez, is an Italian-American clown from the Bronx who has had complicated ties with the mafia. His sidekick Sottile, played by junior theater major Alex Freitas, is a mute, four-armed man from India. Exploring the connection between spirituality and nature is Segismund, played by junior business major Wesly Tan, alongside his love interest Miranda, played by La Verne resident Kennedy Valenzuela. Mona Lutfi portrays the protective Yuki, who is a (literally) two-faced Japanese woman and a mother figure to all the male characters.

As each character’s story progresses, it becomes almost too chaotic and overwhelming for the Artist to handle. With the underlying pressures of his constricting day job, he renounces his imaginative state, and the characters leave in disappointment.

The most impactful and all-encompassing moment comes from the otherwise mute Sottile, who overcomes his vow of silence to tell the Artist: “It is easy to listen to your brain, but true courage comes when (you listen to) your heart.”

Wagner emphasizes that “Mission Selvaggio” (also his senior thesis) is not necessarily about the act of creation — it is about the means of finding inspiration for whatever you want to create.

Looking for inspiration in all the usual places is not going to get you to express your true creativity.

What Wagner promotes is to look at what is right outside, in nature.

“‘Mission Selvaggio’ is a battle against ignorance, a voice for compassion for those who are ignored by the public,” Wagner said in his senior statement.

All of the characters of the play have come from some sort of troubled past, confined and enclosed from society because they are different.

As a journalist who has interviewed all sorts of people from various backgrounds, I feel as if I cannot do my job well if I am not open and tolerant of those whose voices otherwise go unheard. To hear this be accentuated in “Mission Selvaggio” was especially poignant to me.

Two of the most standout performances came from Wagner and Ramirez. Wagner, with his leading man capabilities, still portrayed the Artist as someone we could all to relate to.

Ramirez commanded the stage with his portrayal of the mischievous clown — charming and comedic, but with a lot of heart.

“Mission Selvaggio” ran for only two performances May 8 and 9, but it is a play that all artists—from all mediums—should see.

Kristina Bugante can be reached at

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