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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Wolves

I'm sure Sarah De Lappe chose the name The Wolves very carefully. It is the name of a soccer team made up of high school age girls. Many girls' soccer teams are given nonthreatening, "girly" names, like the Daisies or the Ladybugs. Wolves suggests nothing if not aggression and viciousness.

The Wolves, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, had a production here in Las Vegas. Serious theater is not easy to find here, as most entertainment aims for the middlebrow. But the Cockroach Theater, which has a space near Downtown, mounted an excellent production. I think The Wolves will be seen in many colleges and community theaters in the years to come, since the cast is all female and except for one character all young, and the set is just a piece of artificial turf.

The play concerns the trials and tribulations of the players on the team, who are only identified by number, not name. We see them mostly during their warm-ups, and it begins with them all talking at once for a few minutes, which is both glorious and maddening, as it impossible to hear everything they are saying (I haven't seen a script--I'd love to know if every conversation was scripted or if there was improvisation). The girls talk about several topics (including how to pronounce Khmer Rouge), and over the course of ninety minutes each performer is allowed to hone their character.

We have the captain (Jamie Carvelli), who is gung-ho and says things like "Hydrate!"; the profane girl who has a boyfriend and may or may not have had an abortion (Sarah Spraker); the comedian (Kate Reilly); the religious, innocent girl (Anastasia Weiss; the goalie who says almost nothing and throws up due to anxiety before every game (Shambrian Treadwell); and the character that sets everything in motion, the new girl (Jasmine Kojouri).

In addition to dialogue that sounds completely authentic, De Lappe has presented a cross-section of teenage girl desires and fears. The girls are keen to please scouts from universities, and are dedicated to their sport. But they also have a tendency to create drama from unequal sources, whether it's a season-ending injury or finding out the nationals will be held in Tulsa.

I was a bit disappointed that the last scene reveals a random tragedy that doesn't even stem from the action before it, but I admired the way the playwright has characters come on stage bit by bit until we figure out who has died.

The cast is uniformly excellent, under the direction of Kate St-Pierre--no weak points on this team. There is an undercurrent of "girl power" that I'm sure is easy for a female cast to seize on. It seems that there are a number of young women who are writing great plays these days--Annie Baker and Lynn Nottage are just two more. I'm interested in reading or seeing more of De Lappe's work.

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