Off Broadway Review: ‘The Wolves’
The opening scene of Sarah DeLappe’s exhilarating play “The Wolves,” which depicts the tough, tender and complicated lives of nine members of a girl’s high school indoor soccer team, is a wall of overlapping jabber. As the team warms up for their game, they chatter about sex, menstrual periods, the Khmer Rouge, their parents, snake-handling, the b-word and other matters both profound (to them) and silly (to us).
It’s also a warm-up for the audience. As directed with naturalistic virtuosity by Lila Neugebauer, these random adolescent howls makes the girls all of one pack, yet also specifically themselves. In addition, it captures the don’t-take-anything-for-granted approach by Delappe, who creates a heightened sense of audience attentiveness in order to find in these young women glimpses of pain, hope and sorrow in the smallest of gestures and the slightest of words. (After a well-received run earlier this year, the play is back for a return engagement Off Broadway by special arrangement with Scott Rudin.)
DeLappe’s brilliance is that she reveals her players as they gossip, taunt, comfort and conspire not as archetypes — the smart one, the slutty one, the loner, the loudmouth, the nerd, the new kid — but as young women on the cusp of becoming their own self-defined characters, with the possibility to change, challenge and grow.
It’s an astonishing opening scene played on a turf of green just off to the side of their field of dreams. (The boys’ team has a more privileged status, a point not lost on the girls.) Laura Jellinek created the efficient stretch of the verdant set, lit with dramatic effectiveness by Lap Chi Chu.