Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Wolves
TheaterWorks
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of An Enemy of the People


The Cast
Photo by Lanny Nagler
The Wolves, given a deserved extended run at TheaterWorks in Hartford through November 10th, is both a catchy and important play which speaks to and about the lives of a group of high school women who play soccer. It is difficult to believe that this delectably moving and, at times, comic piece is Sarah DeLappe's first play and was first produced in New York last year; it then became a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. The writer, with dexterity, opens a wide window which grants viewers, through colloquial dialogue, close witness to personal joys and troubles of young women who share an indoor soccer space.

Early on, they trade views about, for example, Cambodia, and some women have more extensive knowledge than others. Shannon Keegan, playing #11, and Karla Gallegos, playing #00, are, in real life, students at the Hartt School (University of Hartford). Five of the performers are members of Actors' Equity and five are not. On stage, their interface is acute and credible—as if they've been friends for many years. That they are all able to stretch, pass around the soccer ball, run laps as if this experience is the real thing is a credit to the ensemble and to director Eric Ort. It was he who pushed TheaterWorks to include the work this season and he carefully helms this show with touch and understanding.

So it is that #7 (Olivia Hoffman) is more experienced than others with men, vocal with advice, but this is the player who suffers a season-ending injury, too. Dea Julien as #13 is wise-cracking, fun, and relaxed; #2 (Carolyn Cutillo) has an eating disorder. The only homeschooled player, #46 (Caitlin Zoz), joins late but is singular and holds her ground. The captain of the squad is #25 (Emily Murphy) and, as such, her role is a bit complicated. She's one of the girls but she also has some responsibility to organize, assist, and so on.

Athletic teams typically function well when the ball is passed, shared, or kicked effectively. Remarkably (and who knows how many of these women actually played soccer), they warm up with grace and fluidity. It's a pleasure the enjoy their expertise from the audience.

Women and men might very well react differently to The Wolves. There is talk of sex and interpersonal relationships, and there are some difficult exchanges between a few who are either competitive with one another or plainly at odds. Sometimes girls mock one another good-naturedly, but that can become more serious. When the show first begins, actors, in separate conversations, talk over one another. You might miss a word, but the device is carefully executed and effective.

It is also, on another level, warmly intimate. This is a coming of age time for the young women who are navigating, individually and collectively, while playing soccer. Set designer Mariana Sanchez creates a rolling artificial-turf field for the nine players. A soccer mom (Megan Byrne) appears hear the end of the 90-minute show.

The Wolves is sensitively drawn and enacted. It is a character piece, driven by the women's dialogue as DeLappe has written it. A pivotal turn near its conclusion does alter context. This play allows its audience members to empathize with, choose favorites from, form opinions about, and involve themselves with the soccer-playing girls on stage. It is a delight to report that the actresses seem to be having a terrific time of it. The scripting is sharp and Ort, committed to a work inclusive of both subtle and obvious subject matter, helps with the breezy feel to the proceedings.

The original production of The Wolves by the way, comes to Lincoln Center shortly. TheaterWorks is presenting an eager, nimble version of its own with a quite affecting and valuable production.

The Wolves continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut, through November 10th, 2017. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit theaterworkshartford.org.


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