win­ning team

NOW Magazine - - STAGE -

THE WOLvES by Sarah DeLappe (The ñ How­land Com­pany/Crow’s The­atre). At Street­car Crowsnest (345 Car­law). Runs to Oc­to­ber 27. $25-$50. crow­sthe­atre.com. See Con­tin­u­ing, page 29. Rat­ing: NNNN

The How­land Com­pany and Crow’s The­atre have com­bined forces to present a thor­oughly riv­et­ing pro­duc­tion of Amer­i­can Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer Prize-nom­i­nated 2016 play, The Wolves.

The ti­tle refers to the name of a high school girls’ soccer team made up al­most en­tirely of 16- to 17-year-olds who have played the game to­gether since child­hood. Over 90 min­utes and six scenes, we see the girls chat dur­ing their warmups for games – stretch­ing, lung­ing, run­ning, pass­ing – with the games them­selves de­picted only in short seg­ments of beau­ti­fully styl­ized move­ment.

DeLappe, born in 1990, has said, “I wanted to see a por­trait of teenage girls as hu­man be­ings – as com­pli­cated, nu­anced, very idio­syn­cratic peo­ple who weren’t just girl­friends or sex ob­jects.”

In­deed, the play is so full of ac­tion and hu­mour that it can be en­joyed solely as a com­plex, re­al­is­tic por­trait of fe­male millennials and their so­cial in­ter­ac­tions that up­ends the older gen­er­a­tion’s ten­dency to view them as a ho­moge­nous group.

Though it may be hard to rec­og­nize at first, The Wolves also has a much wider res­o­nance. Yes, there are dis­cus­sions of tam­pons, pe­ri­ods, boyfriends, preg­nancy and abor­tions, but the play be­gins with a dis­cus­sion of the atroc­i­ties of the Kh­mer Rouge, the cur­rent de­ten­tion of the chil­dren of il­le­gal im­mi­grants and in­cludes a sung ver­sion of the Pre­am­ble to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Grad­u­ally some will re­al­ize that DeLappe has cre­ated in this girls’ team a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety while ex­am­in­ing the bal­ance needed be­tween rules and per­sonal lib­erty. We know the nine char­ac­ters by their jer­sey num­bers, not their names. What drives the ac­tion is the strain be­tween the girls’ quest to be in­di­vid­u­als and the ne­ces­sity to sub­sume in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ences for the com­mu­nal ben­e­fit of the team.

Un­der Court­ney Ch’ng Lan­caster’s pre­cise, in­sight­ful di­rec­tion, the nine ac­tors (Rachel Cairns, Aisha Eve­lyna, Ruth Good­win, An­nelise Hawry­lak, Ula Jurecka, Brit­tany Kay, Heath V. Salazar, Hal­lie Se­line and Amaka Umeh) are so uni­formly ex­cel­lent and form such a tight-knit en­sem­ble that it is im­pos­si­ble to sin­gle any one of them out.

De­spite the stagey sus­pense of its con­clu­sion, DeLappe’s play is re­mark­able not only in com­pelling its au­di­ence to ditch stereo­types of young women, but also in look­ing closely at the ten­sions be­tween “the gen­eral wel­fare” and “the blessings of lib­erty,” to quote the Pre­am­ble, that presently seem to be tear­ing na­tions apart.

It’s a grip­ping pro­duc­tion of a bril­liantly con­ceived, ur­gently rel­e­vant play.

CHRISTO­PHER HOILE

THE­ATRE RE­VIEW The Wolves is an ur­gently rel­e­vant play.

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