TheaterWorks is currently presenting an engaging production of Sarah DeLappe’s excellent play, “The Wolves.” “The Wolves” focuses on a group of high school girls who are all players on a soccer team. The way that this play is written allows for multiple times that these young women conduct conversations in small groups as they are preparing for a game. What’s especially interesting about this play is that the conversations often overlap, so, as an audience member, you are constantly trying to catch every word that these girls are saying.
One of the strongest assets about “The Wolves” is that playwright Sarah DeLappe has really captured the way that teenage girls talk and the play feels entirely true and authentic from beginning to end. Indeed, under the astute direction by Eric Ort, by focusing on such a specific microcosm of nine young soccer players, larger issues are illuminated that prove to be strikingly universal.
On an expansive set of a soccer field (wonderfully designed by Mariana Sanchez), “The Wolves” is made up of a series of short scenes focusing on the lives of these nine girls. Their language is made up of a lot of swear words, sometimes aimed at each other, conversations of boys and school and, most especially, soccer. One can question how all these scenes can make for good theatre, but Sarah DeLappe and company somehow keep this play consistently interesting and insightful.
The real trump card of why “The Wolves” succeeds so well is that this company of young actresses is simply superb and they work fantastically as a true ensemble. And, as one of the signs of a good ensemble, none of these skillful performers try to outshine their costars. Indeed, the cast of actresses all work on the same high level. Interestingly, the playwright has chosen not to give any of the girls in the show character names in the program. Instead, they are each identified by the number they wear on their soccer uniform.
As mentioned, these actresses work as a group, but, individually, each of their personalities manages to shine through, which adds texture to the play. For instance, there is the amusing Dea Julien, who is often cracking jokes, as well as the slightly ditzy Claire Saunders, who brings a lot of warmth to her role. The talented Emily Murphy acts almost like the assistant coach to the rest of the girls and she makes a particularly poignant change to her hairstyle near the conclusion (not to be revealed here) that adds a lot of weight to the play.
The feisty and funny Caitlin Zoz serves as the new (and extremely accomplished) member of the soccer team. The endearing Karla Gallegos, who is dressed differently than the other players, seems to be on a continuous run offstage to throw up before every game. Consequently, Gallegos doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in the show, but, when she does talk, it makes a strong impression.
The fine Carolyn Cutillo is often identified as being too “skinny” and she seems somewhat more innocent than her fellow teammates. Then, there is the fiery, red-headed Shannon Keegan, who is perhaps the most opinionated person onstage. Finally, Olivia Hoffman is foul-mouthed and tough, which make the moments when she reveals just how vulnerable she is underneath all the more powerful. As her best friend, the sweet Rachel Caplan adds a welcome ray of sunshine onstage.
In addition to the group of girls, there is a character called “Soccer Mom” in the program, the touching Megan Byrne, who appears briefly in the moving final scene. Director Eric Ort keeps all these actresses onstage in almost constant motion, practicing soccer and engaging in numerous conversations. Not a great deal really happens, so to speak, in “The Wolves,” at TheaterWorks, but Sarah DeLappe has created quite a world onstage by focusing on this group of young women and she provides the audience with characters that one can truly care about and her play ultimately proves to be riveting.
“The Wolves” continues performances at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through November 5, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.
Photo: The Company
Photo by Lanny Nagler