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Review: THE WOLVES at The Severson Theatre

Review: THE WOLVES at The Severson Theatre
Brooke Johnson as 11
Charlotte Baldiviez as 13
(back: Kaylene Howard as 00 and Madison Davis as 2)
Photo by Luis Escobar Reflections Photography Studio

With its fresh style of dramatic storytelling, PCPA's The Wolves will surely draw you into the pack. The production invites us to share the vulnerability of nine young women, all struggling to understand the world and their place in it. With excellent performances from the entire cast, the production delivers on the very reason that people attend theater--to feel and to think. As Oscar Wilde once said, the theater is "the most immediate way a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." The Wolves is 90 captivating minutes of immediacy.

We encounter the Wolves, a team of high school soccer players, ("We are the Wolves, the mighty, mighty Wolves," they chant) exclusively during their pre-game warm-up sessions on the edges of an indoor soccer field. The society at large seems to be hunting each of these characters, maiming their bodies and their spirits. Soccer grants them a reprieve. On the field, they find liberation as the Wolves; there, the only threat is failing to work as a team.

The drama hones in on the source of that failure to work together. Each of these young women has a point of vulnerability that her teammates exploit to exclude her. Masking their social aggression as chatty gossip, the social exclusion of one girl functions to unite the others. Indeed, they are most integrated when they agree on a particular act of social distancing. If you were once a young woman, you will certainly recognize this uniquely wounding dynamic. If you haven't been a young woman, playwright Sarah DeLappe's dialogue is a cannily truthful portrait.

It's a mark of the excellence of the acting that we cannot help but empathize with even the sharpest-toothed among them. For example, even the digs delivered by #7 (played with dimension by Holland Davenport) are motivated by an impossibly conflicting set of social pressures she faces to be both chaste and sexually alluring. The actors practiced soccer moves in preparation for their roles, contributing to the convincing veracity of their physicality. In particular, PCPA Conservatory student Charlotte Baldiviez surely makes her acting professors proud for her toes-to-fingertips, total commitment to the role of immature #13.

Director Karin Henricks' pacing exposes the audience to the story like the fabled frog that slowly boils in the pot of warm water. The Wolves' pack dynamic, in an escalating cycle of social rejection and reintegration, comes into a devastating climax. Kitty Balay as "Soccer Mom" joins the cast near the ending, offering a level of immediacy that brings us right next to what it means to be a human being.

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