These nine young women we see before us are strong, athletic, and powerful. They are a pack of Wolves, preparing to embark on a war-like charge of sorts. These young teenage women engage in casual effortless banter with each other, talking to one another, over one another, and ignoring others. It’s a breathless beginning, so real and honest, creating a instant engagement and awe of these warrior women preparing for battle. At the beginning of The Wolves, this indoor soccer team, stretching and preparing, are undefeated, but we know these women are going to have to deal with many obstacles that will be thrown in their way. Will they triumph or will they be defeated?
Sarah DeLappe, the playwright, delivers spectacularly on her debut production. The Wolves has been in the works since the summer of 2014, and we owe a debt of gratitude to organizations like Playwrights Realm, which foster young talented writers such as DeLappe, and the plays they are developing. The hard work and dedication has paid off in the creation of such a fierce and fearless play. These new productions don’t just magically appear as completed pieces, but get manicured and developed with many a note from numerous interested talented souls. And because of that help, The Wolves wins big.
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, this play aggressively throws us into the mix mid-sentance. All these name-less teammates; Susannah Perkins (#11), Lauren Patten (#25), Jenna Dioguardi (#13), Tedra Millan (#46), Sarah Mezzanotte (#2), Brenna Coates (#7), Samia Finnerty (#14), Midori Francis (#8), and Lizzy Jutila (#00), are warming up and gossiping. They discuss every order of the day from sanitary napkins to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. They speak about some things that they are unable to fully comprehend; information and ideas ingested from reading articles, textbooks, and listening to their parent’s conversations. It’s as if they want to understand and solve all the worlds problems, in the way that only a pack of teenagers would. The girls are figuring out who they are, at the same time as we, the audience are. We are witness to their img_8980anxiety and fear, right along side their courage and optimism. The stereotypes that we try to fit the individual teens into don’t fully work here, changing and expanding our definitions and delineations with each scene. This is where DeLappe’s genius is most apparent: in the details and the differences. Some of them have a history that goes back years, and some are new to the team and to each other. It’s captivating watching them argue, fight, tease, and commune together, wanting to be a uniformed force, but also striving for personal identity, individualization, acceptance, and accomplishment.
In much the same way that DeLappe delivers on her authentic dialogue, the creative team, Laura Jellinek (set design), Lap Chi Chu (lighting design), Ásta Bennie Hostetter (costume design) and Stowe Nelson & Beth Lake (sound design) succeed wonderfully at giving us a solidness and excitement to fully engage us throughout this 90 minute dissertation in young female power, competitiveness, and angst. The big reveal that comes midway through, in the form of the one adult actor, the thankless role of the Soccer Mom (Kate Arrington) who has something to say, is the one area that feels the most constructed, which is not to say it doesn’t work. But it is the one moment in this raw production that feels manufactured. For a moment, it takes us out of the race forward. But thankfully, it passes. And we return to the young women that are keeping this play on track. We understand, that the real standout, the MVP, besides the impeccable work by all nine of the young women actors, is the script. The beauty and the power of these young athletes moving from teenage to adulthood. The team and the play are the true winners here.
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