In Play Reviews

“I live in a yogurt, my feelings don’t get hurt.” #46, The Wolves

Nothing quite tells one about one’s culture like a pack of teenage girls–in this case, a wolfpack of teenage girls.

Andrea Vernae, Ash Heffernan, Delaney Barbour, and Barbie Wu in The Wolves. Brud Giles photo.

The Wolves, a play by Sarah DeLappe and the name of DeLappe’s fictional indoor soccer team, tells a deep and revealing story about high school girls thrust together in a very competitive team environment. Now onstage at Portland Playhouse, the play provides an inside look at this oft-overlooked group through their pre-game stretch sessions.

Anyone who has been or known a teenage girl can attest to how they can be screeching furies one minute and soft as cream puffs the next. Few of us, I fear, take measure of their determination, gutsiness, and toughness, their intellect, physical strength, cluelessness, ability to transform in a moment, and the great empathy that seldom is revealed in their everyday conversations.

The Wolves: Alyssa Longoria, Ash Heffernan, Lauren Vander Aarde, Fiona Palazzi, Andrea Vernae, Barbie Wu, Delaney Barbour. Brud Giles photo.

As The Wolves opens, one of the girls starts talking about the Khmer Rouge. Most of them don’t know what it was. The conversation drifts to the efficacies of various feminine products. #7 (Quinlan Fitzgerald) drops several F-bombs and sets #14 (Alyssa Longoria) up with a blind date. Keeper #00 (Lauren Vander Aarde) runs out to vomit. #11 (Fiona Palazzi) knits scarves for kids in cages.

There’s the mysterious new girl #46 (Kailey Rhodes), and everyone is curious about her. Team captain #25 (Barbie Wu) gives orders like a drill sergeant. #2 (Delaney Barbour), #13 (Andrea Vernae), and #8 (Ash Heffernan) have opinions on everything. Soccer Mom (Maureen Porter) weighs in near the play’s end.

Quinlan Fitzgerald and Maureen Porter in The Wolves. Brud Giles photo.

What is a play but a story? In this case, nine stories. Each team member grapples with evolving team relationships and deals with physical and mental adversity on the field and off. Their highly punctuated language reveals the real ebbs and flows of teenage girl conversation. Indeed, playwright DeLappe is an avid listener of other people’s conversations. Like any true writer, she is tuned-in wherever she goes–subways, coffee shops, the girls she tutored during her college days–and every word rings true.

Alyssa Longoria and Kailey Rhodes in The Wolves. Brud Giles photo.

The play opened off-Broadway in 2017, when DeLappe was only 27. It is her first and only play to date, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Directed and choreographed by Jessica Wallenfels, the soccer field device benefits from on-the-field knowledge of assistant choreographer Kailey Rhodes. Crew members include Kaye Blankenship, scenic designer; Wanda Walden, costume designer; Dan Meeker, lighting designer; Rory Breshears, sound designer; Jeff Duncan, properties manager; Nikki Weaver, producer; David Levine, stage manager.

The Wolves continues its Portland Playhouse run through October 20.

 

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