“The Wolves” is a world premier play crafted by Sarah DeLappe and developed with care by The Playwrights Realm, a company dedicated to supporting early career playwrights. They certainly unearthed a jewel here.
An all girls soccer team takes the stage. A bare, black box theater space at The Duke on 42nd Street that has been covered in green AstroTurf — a brilliant design conceit by Laura Jellinek and amplified by stark, provocative lighting by Lap Chi Chu.
From the first moment what strikes everyone is a cast of ten, diverse young women. Take a pause here. This is very unusual. And a play written by a woman, directed flawlessly by Lila Neugebauer and with an appreciative audience that conservatively was 60 percent women.
I took a young friend, a 15-year-old who just moved to America from Copenhagen. At dinner before the show we discussed so much of what was vibrantly portrayed in this tight 90-minute work. How are we defined as young women, what should we consider politically, how can we make friends in a new environment, why are people so mean, how do you find a trajectory in life?
These questions were all posed and some were parsed during the time the team stretched, did drills, “knees up, rear kicks, headers, passing the ball,” all was articulated on the turf. These actors are extremely fit. The sheer physicality of the work requires them to run, leap, and stretch hamstrings, quads, and delts endlessly while they unfold their home life, questions regarding abortion, what it means to be home schooled or religious and how to be a fierce athletic warrior.
And it is delivered in rat-a-tat speed, just the way modern youth talk. Every sentence is like punctuated in a like rhythmic way with like the word “like.” I often find language contrivances as like difficult to listen to, and in this play it diverted me at times and bothered my grown up sensibility. But it is realistic and was even addressed in a final scene by the only adult to make an appearance.
The girls’ characters were all well written and enacted. There is the goalie Lizzy Jutila, who constantly had to rush off stage to hurl before each game as she was so driven by her perfectionism. Lauren Patten #25 the team captain, gets into massive arguments with teammates and then must muster the gang to win the game. Tiny, blond Sarah Mezzanotte is the groups eating disorder poster child, scarfing down all the orange rinds after the team has left them behind. These are all small or large embodiments of issues that modern girls grapple with and it is so important that it is given a loud, raucous, wise voice, center stage.
“The Wolves” runs through Sept. 29 at The Duke, 229 W 42nd St., New York, NY. For information or tickets, call 212-255-3089 or visit playwrightsrealm.org