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Review: Stray Cat Theatre Presents Sarah DeLappe's THE WOLVES

Review: Stray Cat Theatre Presents Sarah DeLappe's THE WOLVES

When Sarah DeLappe's debut play, THE WOLVES (written while a graduate student at Brooklyn College) was under consideration as a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it was hailed for its originality in dealing with aspects of American life. In its current staging at Stray Cat Theatre, the play, directed by Heather Lee Harper, that commendation is fully understandable. It is as though we are viewing a slice of American life through teenage-frosted windows.

The playwright has composed dialogue that flows like notes on a music sheet ~ the girls' words often overlapping yet ultimately distinguishable and harmonious. The director has excelled in guiding the players ~ nine remarkable actresses ~ to move and talk to the beats of the script with near synchronization. For a full ninety minutes, each member of this cast ~ Elizabeth Broeder, Shannyn Hall, Samantha Hanna, Erin Malimban, Julia Murphy, Shannon Phelps, Sarah Schalick, Taylor Shepard, and Jillan Walker ~ imbues her character with depth and nuance.

To capture the brilliance of this unique work, you need to put yourself in (or be open to understanding) a Generation Z teenage-girl state of mind. Because no sooner do the lights go up on a long rolling field of bright green astroturf than streams of consciousness ~ sometimes very funny, sometimes quite poignant ~ flow among nine high schoolers vigorously stretching and lunging in unison in advance of a soccer match.

From one warm-up session to another, the girls of The Wolves, a soccer team, advance their particular insights about matters ranging from world events to feminine hygiene and from gossip about boyfriends to speculation about their coach's pastime, from pregnancy to depression. Each scene delves further into the ties that bind them as a team and the issues that challenge them as individuals and competitors.

For example, as the play opens and the girls are warming up, they are discussing the sentencing of a ninety-year old Khmer Rouge leader for atrocities against Cambodians. From there, talk turns to all manner of things ~ from tampons to snake handling, from wondering if there's Skype in Cambodia to being "like very very thankful for our liberties."

There is nothing in this play that suggests that their talk is trivial. Their minds are active on matters that are to them of importance. As the play progresses, matters get more personal. Secrets are shared. A new girl joins the team, and fitting in is not without its challenges. Accidents happen. Tragedy happens.

In the face of the personal dramas that emerge over the course of all the workouts and all the games, whatever fate befalls individual members, the team, The Wolves, remain in full force and fully fierce.

Bottom line: Unequivocal thumbs up for THE WOLVES.

THE WOLVES runs through February 22nd at Tempe Center for the Arts Studio Theatre in Tempe, AZ.

Photo credit to John Groseclose

Stray Cat Theatre ~ ~ Venue: Tempe Center for the Arts ~ ~ 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ ~ Box Office 480-350-2822

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