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A CurtainUp Review
The Wolves

Update: The Pulitzer Prize finalist returned for an encore production to the Duke from November 29 to December 24, 2016, with an official re-opening on December 5th to December 31st. And in 2017 it will have yet another run at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater from 11/01/17, reopening 11/20/17; until 1/07/18
Now we want to see a win out there! Today! Win! Win! Win! Lots of big fans, long time fans came out to see you! How cool is that? Right? So cool. — Soccer Mom
The Wolves
The Cast (Photo: Daniel J. Vasquez)
The nine young women on the high school soccer team in (and as) The Wolves haven't been given names. But their distinct and credibly realized personalities are given keen dramatic shape by playwright Sarah Delappe in her slight but enjoyable play that The Playwrights Realm is presenting in its world premiere.

They win some and they lose some, but it is obvious to us was we watch them prepare for a game that it is the "one for all and all for one" philosophy that drives and connects them. . . that is until it doesn't. So you can expect that personal issues and conflicts will arise within a group that depends upon team-work. The question is will allowances be made for personal likes and dislikes. Not much of a dramatic arc, but it suffices.

Much of the action in this conscientiously contrived play involves the actual warm-up sessions before a game. This involves the rigorous stretching and intense but carefully controlled exercises — the squats, jumping jacks, quads, hamstrings butterfly etc. — and the coordinated efforts of the team to work with the ball and with your teammates. This, as we keep our eyes on the astro turfed stage that director Lila Neugerbauer admirably uses to also bring us up close and personal to each of the players. To say the play has a plot would be pushing its inherent limitations, but it does provide some sharp insights into the individuals who have bonded for a common goal.

We're off to a fun start somewhere in suburban America as the young women sit in a circle on the floor for a preliminary warm-up. Here they expose their rather charming naiveté on world matters with flippant over-lapping remarks, pithy retorts, and an abundance of innuendoes. If someone brings up a political and social issue like Mexican kids in cages, the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia or the torturing of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, it gets a second or two of consideration and then on to other more pressing things. It's inevitable that their more personal streams of consciousness will rise to keep the atmosphere alive and help to generate our own involvement.

To the playwright's credit is that each girl is sketched with both bold and subtle strokes that make them appear real. Neither too deep nor too shallow, these young women, mostly seventeen, are quite normal, if not the typical stuff of dramatic literature. Things happen but don't count on that to bring the play to any emotional high or intellectual insight.

The quality of the acting is top notch. There's not a weak link, something that the team strives for itself. #46 (Tedra Millan) is a late recruit and something of a mystery because of her exceptional talent; #25 (Lauren Patten) is presumably the captain who knows what makes each player tick but reveals little about herself until. . .: #7 (a terrific Brenna Coates), an unbridled, motor-mouthed antagonist, and #00 (Lizzy Jutilia), the loner who wows us with a full-out and formidable warm-up solo . . .and so on and so forth. Sex and sexuality play their part as do well staged confrontations between individuals.

Whether defined as playing defense, midfield, goalie or striker, each player becomes identified through her degree of neediness. The play courageously eschews a strong central character but it could gain substance with a more compelling dramatic device than what we get. There is a climactic appearance of a Soccer Mom (Mia Barron) with something to say before the final game of the season. She has something to say, but like this earnest play, it's not all that memorable. But in keeping with the mission of The Playwrights Realm, The Wolves is an excellent example of how they serve in the development of early career playwrights.

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The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe
Directed by Lila Neugebauer

Mia Barron (Soccer Mom), Brenna Coates (#7), Jenna Dioguardi (#13) Samia Finnerty (#14), Midori Francis (#8), Lizzy Jutila (#00), Sarah Mezzanotte (#2) Tedra Millan (#46), Lauren Patten (#25), Susannah Perkins (#11)
Scenic Design: Laura Jellinek
Costume Design: Asta Bennie Hotsetter
Lighting Design: Lap Chi Chu
Sound Design: Beth Lake & Stowe Nelson
Production Stage Manager: Lori Lundquist
Running Time: 90 minutes no intermission
The Duke on 42nd Street
Tickets: $40.00
Performances: All evenings except Sunday at 7:30
From 08/29/16 Opened 09/11/16 Ends 09/29/16--reopened for 2nd run, closing 12/29/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/09/16

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