Off Broadway, Play
Return Engagement: 29 November through 24 December 2016
The Duke on 42nd Theatre, NYC
Review by Sarah Moore
BOTTOM LINE: Sarah DeLappe's fantastic Off Broadway debut is a hilarious and emotional portrait of teenage girls discovering who they are, on and off the soccer field.
#46 is the awkward new girl. #2’s family is weirdly religious. #7 is sarcastic and too cool for school. #25 is the captain, whose dad used to be the coach.
Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves introduces the audience to the nine girls on an indoor soccer team, referred to only by their jersey numbers. Of course, this play isn’t really about soccer. Director Lila Neugebauer has staged the play as if we are watching the girls practice. They chatter on about what they learned in social studies and gossip about other girls; their conversations overlap with ease, yet we’re still able to follow all of what is going on. Neugebauer has expertly crafted the social cues and the natural pauses lending to the feeling that we’re really in the room with this team, rather than an audience watching a play. (The actual soccer drills are particularly impressive. I assume credit goes to Neugebauer for the realism of this as well, as no movement director is listed.)
DeLappe’s characters are easily recognizable types we all have known (I was quickly able to identify the #7 in my own high school experience), but they’re all absolutely unique, and everything that comes out of their mouths feels real and unrehearsed. The way teenagers speak is not easy to capture, but DeLappe is clearly fluent in teen-girl-speak. Facts about the girls and their lives spill out through natural conversation: the (unseen) coach is always hungover, some of the girls are getting their periods at the same time, #14 is Armenian (not Mexican), and where will nationals be held this year?
The girls are all strong young women with distinct personalities, and are great athletes. If that were all this play was, it would be worth celebrating. Yet DeLappe’s play goes even deeper into the relationships between young women, how these relationships change through hardships large and small, and what you learn as you grow older. Much of the joy in The Wolves comes from watching the plot unfold, so I don’t want to spoil the details of how it all plays out. Despite some typical high school situations and conflicts, DeLappe manages to subvert expectations, as the plot never goes where you think it will. It’s constantly surprising as it manages to turn the typical high school story on its head.
In addition to the writing and direction, every other aspect of The Wolves is excellent, from the cast to the design. Each actress is memorable, with special mentions to Sarah Mezzanotte (#32), Tedra Millan (#46), Brenna Coates (#7), and Lauren Patten (#25). Laura Jellinek’s Astroturf design sets the stage perfectly, as do the varied uniform costumes by Ásta Bennie Hostetter. The Wolves is one of the strongest new plays I’ve seen Off Broadway in recent memory, and I can only hope that it quickly gets into the hands of young actresses all over the country. DeLappe’s voice is strong, refreshing, and certainly one to watch.
(The Wolves plays at The Duke on 42nd, 229 West 42rd Street, through December 24, 2016 . The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Mondays through Fridays at 7:30, and Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30. Tickets are $40 and are available at dukeon42.org or by calling 646-223-3010. For more information visit playwrightsrealm.org.)
The Wolves is by Sarah DeLappe. Directed by Lila Neugebauer. Set Design is by Laura Jellinek. Costume Design is by Ásta Bennie Hostetter. Lighting Design is by Lap Chi Chu. Sound Design is by Beth Lake and Stowe Nelson. Production Stage Manager is Lori Lundquist. Assistant Stage Manager is Bernita Robinson
The cast is Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, and Susannah Perkins.
The Duke on 42nd: 229 West 42nd Street NYC
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