BWW Review: THE WOLVES at Crow's Theatre Serves as a Reminder of Female Strength
THE WOLVES exists almost entirely within pre-game stretching circles and drills, yet manages to discuss all the highs and lows of teenage life. Focused on a girls' indoor soccer team, most of which have played together since childhood, this is a play that knows exactly when to take its time and when to delve into a character. Its easy to understand its 2017 Pulitzer Prize nomination within the opening scene, and the show never falters throughout its 90-minute runtime to capture the unique energy of the young women on the team.
Brought to life by a dynamic cast of actors and led by the team's Captain, #25 (Rachel Cairns), the hierarchy of the team is in constant motion - as are the relationships between the girls. The team's moniker really does suit them - they're certainly a pack due to the time they've spent together, but their ability to transform into a snapping, snarling mass is animalistic at its roots.
Cairns shows #25's struggles to motivate her team to nationals-level success while dealing with a quickly onset crush, and her position as the unsure leader is sincere and charming. Against Cairns, we see the rookie player #46 (Ula Jurecka), who clearly shines - leading to constant questioning from the team. Jurecka carries the character with an off-beat awkwardness that is, at its core, believably authentic.
Perhaps the most ferocious player, #7 (Aisha Evelyna) is the foul-mouthed, raunchy striker whose close friendship with #14 (Brittany Kay) is one of the most interesting dynamics in the cast. Their opening dialogue - separate from the rest of the group's discussion - features the funniest physical acting of the night. Evelyna is a loud, demanding #7 who gives a fully realized performance as a young girl struggling with the difficulties of balancing friendship and a romantic relationship. Contrasting her, Kay is the agreeable #14, whose conflicting ideals result in a chilling scene between the two that's performed beautifully.
Another standout within the cast is #00 (Amaka Umeh), the Wolves' goalie who fits the 'silent defender' trope to a T. Umeh's quiet delivery makes #00 one of the most interesting characters - and when up against the frequent overlap of conversations, her monologue stands out as an effective and striking use of the human body to tell a story.
The remaining actors do a fantastic job of rounding out the cast, from the immature master of one-liners, #13 (Heath V. Salazar), to the team sweetheart, #8 (Hallie Seline). Quite possibly the most powerful performance of the show comes from the unnamed Soccer Mom (Robyn Stevan), who drives the show through it's close with incredible sincerity and skill.
Thanks to the soccer field setting, there is plenty of room for action. The simple design of the theatre and stage (Jareth Li) allows the actors plenty of room to run, stretch, and practice their passes. The combination of movement (Sarah Doucet) and lighting (Jareth Li) during game interludes and transitions is perfectly executed, and explains gameplay and results effectively.
The cast and creative team of THE WOLVES might have had a sharp, powerful script to work with, but it's their delivery of the material that makes this story so effective.
THE WOLVES runs through October 27 at the Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://www.crowstheatre.com/whats-on/view-all/the-wolves
(photo: Dahlia Katz)