BWW Review: Sarah DeLappe's Pulitzer Finalist THE WOLVES Moves To Lincoln Center
The almost completely circular, arena style seating of Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater makes it a perfect venue for The Wolves, Sarah DeLappe's 2017 Pulitzer finalist drama about the individuality hidden beneath the uniformity of a girls soccer team.
Scenes take place during pre-game warmups of their winter indoor season, as the high school aged teammates form a circle to do their stretches. (Set designer Laura Jellinek provides a large patch of artificial turf.) Their unison physical routine and the practice of calling each other by their uniform numbers instead of by names emphasizes their strength through their team identity as The Wolves, a concept that conflicts with their states of being adolescents and young adults discovering their own identities.
If you regard that, in context, their uniform numbers are their names, the play passes the Bechdel test immediately, as the opening scene rings out with the invigorating, clashing chatter of multiple conversations regarding subjects such as Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, strength training, social anxiety disorder, child immigration issues and playing during your period.
The only male of any significance (and even that is minimal) is their unseen coach, whose leadership appears to be in name only.
The commands come from #25 (Paola Sanchez Abreu), the tough and seriously focused team captain. Their star goalie, #00 (Lizzy Jutila) is known to vomit from pre-game nervousness. #2 (Sarah Mezzanotte) secretly vomits after binges.
Newcomers seem essential in such stories, and in The Wolves, the newcomer to the team is the quirkily independent, home-schooled #46 (Tedra Millan), who shocks the others with her superior skills and ability to maneuver a bicycle kick.
The exceptional ensemble, all of whom, except Abreu, were members of the play's Obie-winning original Playwrights Realm cast, also includes Susannah Perkins, Jenna Dioguardi, Midori Francis, Samia Finnerty, Brenna Coates and Lizzy Jutila. Although their characters may at first come off as recognizable types (perhaps unavoidable in a densely-populated 90-minute play) what comes through is the safe environment the team gives them to be their own selves as the scenes take them through life-changing events, self-discovery and tragedy.
A character referred to as "soccer mom" (Mia Barron) makes an appearance late in the play, under highly emotional circumstances, offering a contrasting look into adulthood.
The work of director Lila Neugebauer, who was also included as part of the ensemble's Obie honor, achieves a remarkable naturalism, even while the actors are choreographed into set routines and speaking their overlapping lines while allowing for the more important points to surface above the clamor.
As DeLappe's debut piece, The Wolves introduces a playwright with a fine ear for authentic dialogue who can cleverly structure a play non-traditionally. When amateur and regional rights become available, expect this one to be popular all over the country.