Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
The U.S. women’s soccer team has won the highest challenge – the FIFA World Cup – three times, most recently in 2015. Girls and young women across the country are playing soccer in increasing numbers, so Flint Repertory Theatre’s decision to bring Sarah DeLappe’s award-winning first play The Wolves to life is clearly timely. It’s also a look into what drives female players to excel at such levels and how their individuality works for and against them.
Director Kathryn Walsh has done a masterful job with this ensemble of nine gals who are nearly always on stage together and seem to never stop moving. The setting is an indoor soccer field on successive Winter Saturdays. The girls gather to practice and to compete against other teams. There is non-stop chatter as they stretch and warm-up that often leads to conversation that ranges rapidly – Cambodian atrocities, Harry Potter, weekend escapes, the coach’s drinking and of course the latest gossip about whoever isn’t present at the practice.
The ensemble nature of this production is intriguing. It allows for no lead characters – they are all leads. Each has a unique identity – quiet, angry, bubbly, growling, loud, bossy, excitable, chatty, and calmly observant. With all of these differences, they seem to swarm like birds or bees between ideas and beliefs, between moods and finally to collision with a reality they had only touched blithely on before.
Walsh refers to these young women as warriors. Their team name gives them an even more distinctive spot in time and space. They move and speak with strength and their words often collide and spill over one another. They exhibit a desire to win and to excel both in the game and in life. They are at their best when they bow to team spirit – as when one is hurt and another is a newcomer still on the outside looking in. Their ability to accept and forge ahead in the face of loss and adversity is clearly a result of their interconnections with each other. They are a pack; much like wolves.
We won’t single out any players for special attention as they were all pristine in their portrayals. Indeed, this is an unusual situation where a group can toss such a diverse amount of sentiment and personality into a pot and emerge with such bold awareness.
We must mention the unique set design – we were in the “bleachers” at the indoor soccer field – and give credit to the entire technical team that provided just the right lighting and sound to augment the action on the stage.
The Wolves is an amazing first play for DeLappe and a show worth seeing if you have any interest in soccer and young women who play it or many other sports. We will caution that this show is recommended for teens and adults. It contains mature language and explores sensitive topics.
It continues through February 17. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at FlintRep.org