Animal by Romeo Ciolfi


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Animal by Romeo Ciolfi

Raina Shepherd, a 42-year-old quirky woman with a wild imagination and a flare for painting, has barricaded herself in her parents’ living room. She has strewn about her mother’s dresses and bras. From the basement, she has dragged up items that belong to her father including his workbench, buckets of clay and ceramic animal figurines that he sculpts.

Raina and her mother are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon to visit the very spot where the Shepherds met and fell in love. But is the trip in doubt? And is there something more going on with Raina? Why does the living room look like a hoarder's nest? Why does her mother keep bringing up a psychiatrist and reminding Raina to take her medication? When her parents leave for the day and her brother, Daniel, and Raina’s son, Griffin, show up, seemingly out of nowhere, what unfolds are a number of searing revelations from the Shepherds' collective pasts that rock this already fragmented family to the breaking point.

Both heart breaking and wickedly funny, Animal depicts one woman's struggle with mental illness and the devastating effects it has on her family.

Keywords: Mental illness, mania, hallucinations, medication, mute, biting, PTSD, psychiatrist, ceramics, animals, sculpting, canvas, paintings, art, literature, circus, games, basement, living room, family, tragic, hilarious

Animal has received several public and private readings, and a full production as part of the Alumnae Theatre's Fireworks Festival, November 2018. Read some of the production history of this play HERE!

Finalist, 2021 Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition

Genre: Drama, Dark Comedy
Acts: 1
Run time: 90 minutes
Content note: Contains references to mental illness and abuse, some language

Cast size: 5 actors
Male roles: 4
Female roles: 2
Casting breakdown:
Raina Shepherd, early 40s/must also play 23 & 32
(bipolar/schizophrenic, mentally unstable for most of her life, haunted by memories, enjoys playing games/changing her voice)

Mercedes Shepherd, 60s/must also play 50s
(mother to Raina, headstrong, comes from a broken family, she is Raina’s main caregiver)

Cliff Shepherd, late 50s/must also play late 40s
(father to Raina, good-natured, creative, owns and operates his own ceramic animal figurine shop)

Daniel Shepherd, 35
(brother to Raina, left home at 18 to get away from Raina whom he is afraid of, a professor of literature, father figure to Griffin who is Raina’s son)

Griffin Shepherd, 18/must also play Griffin at 8 and Mark, 17 - the actor is required to play two different roles
(Griffin is the son of Raina, left his mother when he was 8 to live with Daniel, he has not spoken in 10 years and only recently began talking to Daniel, has a striking resembles to his father Mark)

Mark, 17 - played by the actor portraying Griffin
(Raina’s mentally unstable boyfriend, manic/high, he and Raina had a wild time at the circus where Griffin was conceived)

"ANIMAL is an imaginative exploration of a challenging subject matter. It has many strengths; particularly notable is the use of humour, the element of surprise, and the high dramatic stakes. The characters are complex and believable".
-- Voaden Adjudicator comment

"Since the protagonist is 'Bipolar. Schizophrenic. OCD impulses. And dash of depression for fun', the concept offers a unique perspective. The play almost feels like a mix between The Sixth Sense and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The characters were definitely complex, and it was interesting to watch the dysfunctional familial relationships play out inside the confines of one location.....There is a quick-wittedness to the dialogue as well, and the characters have distinct voices".
-- Austin Film Festival Playwriting Competition adjudicator comment

"North York playwright tackles mental illness in latest production"
-- Aaron D'Andrea,

You can read more about the playwright on his website where he blogs about life, his writing and productions of his work: