BWW Review: THE WOLVES by Red Ryder Productions at The Blue Room Theatre
What would a bunch of American teenage girl soccer players know about the world? Plenty, according to The Wolves playwright Sarah DeLappe and director Emily McLean. A team of 9 young ladies form a fierce pack of characters that come alive with strength, smarts, infectious energy and glorious individuality. Collectively they are the embodiment of the answer to Beyonce's question: Who run the world?
Out of the darkness, the lights flash up suddenly to illuminate two rows of girls in shorts and jerseys doing stretches on a bright green turf. They immediately begin chattering over, across and at each other about various subjects - some as weighty as the Khmer Rouge, some as intimate as tampons vs. pads - just as packs of teenage girls are wont to do.
McLean takes care to start us out at a moderate pace for the first 2-3 minutes, making sure we have time to adjust to the first rush of dialogue and first glimpses of these characters. The pace soon quickens, and we are flying at a more realistic speed with lines of dialogue overlapping and groups of girls having conversations simultaneously. This creates a kind of choose-your-own-scene effect, and the audience's laughter travels from one side of the room to the other, as one side hears a joke the other side doesn't.
There are a few alliances between girls, with the captain (Molly Earnshaw) showing strong leadership qualities; these various alliances can sometimes lead to tension and conflict, but their spats are soon channeled onto the soccer field and directed at their opponents. The girls have each other's backs, and they tentatively initiate a new team member into the team's rites and roles, even though they question her backstory.
Eventually the story moves away from general banter and into a more specific drama that plays out amongst them. Their strength, tenacity and resolve are tested when they are touched by a terrible fate.
I won't be a spoilsport and give away whether or not they are winners in the end, so I'll simply cut to the chase and offer my high praise for this production and this group of emerging performers. Every single player brought distinct energy and credible personas to the stage, and they shared the space with a kind of innate egalitarianism. Their footwork and physical coordination while delivering lines can't be overlooked, either.
The dynamic between them all, even those whose roles called for a more muted presence at times, was pitch-perfect, and this is all down to McLean's steady, skilled hand. Alison van Reeken also lends her considerable emotional gravitas to the show, both on stage and off. Special mention should also go to Rachael Dease for creating a distinctive musical score.
The Wolves is a ferociously good offering from the Red Ryder team.