Sarah DeLappe's debut play The Wolves may focus on the members of a high school girls soccer team, but the play is about much more than soccer. This drama was a well-deserved finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Stray Cat Theatre presents the Phoenix premiere in an expertly directed production with one of the best ensemble casts I've seen this season. The end result is a beautiful work that speaks to the simple and complex challenges of life that every one of us faces.
The beauty of DeLappe's piece is that you'll most likely find yourself reflected in a character or two and probably recall similar conversations and experiences you encountered when you were growing up—from the uncomfortable nature of being a newcomer to the pain of having a friend turn on you and the constant drive to live up to your potential. But you'll also realize that the challenges the play depicts are also ones that we continue to face.
While most of the conversations the girls have are inconsequential, or even juvenile at times, DeLappe has given each character a distinct voice so, even though they are only identified by their jersey numbers in the program and in the dialogue, we quickly discover each girl's unique personality. At first the characters may appear to be archetypes, but throughout the piece DeLappe adds layers to each young woman, showing that they are all well-rounded and realistic individuals and much more than our initial perceptions.
The individuality of each character is expertly brought to life under Heather Lee Harper's direction, with an incredibly talented cast who create distinct women. Harper's pacing of the piece is superb and she doesn't ever let the cadence of the overlapping dialogue come across as unnatural or trip up her cast.
This is an ensemble piece in the truest sense and each actress is exceptional.
The universality of The Wolves is that DeLappe has created a group of characters who are young, athletic women easy to identify with, whether you are male or female and even if you aren't a soccer fan. The successes and failures they face are ones we have all encountered in some form, and will continue to face, and the honesty in the script and the beauty of these fierce young women is brought expertly to life in Stray Cat's memorable and moving production.