Arts theater review

Running with the wolf pack

Sarah DeLappe’s ‘The Wolves’ skillfully uses the language of teenagers in this depiction of a girls’ soccer team

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The cast of 'The Wolves' pose for a picture with orange slices.
Mark S. Howard

The Wolves
Written by Sarah DeLappe
Directed by A. Nora Long
Lyric Stage Boston
Jan. 11 – Feb. 3

If I had to succinctly summarize Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, I would say that it features the gossip of a girls’ soccer team as the athletes warm up for their upcoming games. Yet this simple premise hardly does justice to The Wolves’s brilliance; the play finds a theatrical cadence in the speech of teenagers, rendered amusing and achingly real, and fleshes out a fully developed character for each girl. If I instead described The Wolves in loftier praises as a transformative representation of the feminine experience, the words would ring hollow in comparison to the complex tableau of nuanced portrayals at Lyric Stage currently. Indeed, it is difficult to find a flaw in Lyric Stage’s impressive production of The Wolves which boasts a stellar all-female cast and creative team.

The Wolves is a character-driven play in which the girls discuss a variety of topics ranging anywhere from appropriate sentencing of Khmer Rouge officials to gossip about classmates. These interactions are fast and sometimes overlapped — reminiscent of the techniques used by Caryl Churchill and Aaron Sorkin — revealing the team’s cliques and social dynamics to which the title of the play alludes. Director A. Nora Long and the cast make commendable work of this challenge, establishing a natural rhythm to the dialogue without sacrificing either realism or clarity. The cast is all-around excellent — crafting complex and grounded personalities in each of their characters. Special mention goes to Sarah Elizabeth Bedard as the morbidly curious #11, Jarielle Whitney as the charismatic and funny #13, and Laura Latreille as the Soccer Mom for knocking out her powerful ending monologue. My only nitpick would be in the performance of Valerie Terranova as #25, who is a bit too restrained as the team captain, although this could believably be an intentional decision for the character.

Design-wise, The Wolves is not a play that requires many bells and whistles. The turf on the stage and the net shielding the audience from soccer balls effectively evoke the soccer field with the help of the lighting befitting one of a stadium. Despite their relative simplicity, these design elements excel in increasing the staying power of the stunning final scenes which have become ingrained in my mind. In terms of seating, the Lyric Stage’s thrust staging never interferes with the action on stage, although I would recommend sitting more towards the right of the stage.

In the director’s notes, Long notes that the phrase “female athlete” implies that athletes are male by default. Perhaps the same thing could be said for wolves, which have received masculine connotations by way of the popular beliefs about wolf pack dynamics. Perhaps, just as the social perceptions of the wolf obscure their actual behavior, the assumptions of being an athlete betray the girls’ diverse personalities as individuals. In any event, run to see Lyric Stage’s production of The Wolves, even if it involves a couple of high kicks. Run and howl.