Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

Sarah DeLappe's play about a high school women’s soccer team, The Wolves, managed two New York productions in successive seasons and garnered a place as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It's a remarkable feat for a first-time professional playwright.

The buzz from the earlier productions was compelling enough, but the fact that the LA premiere would be placed in the capable hands of director Alana Dietze for the Echo Theater Company made me overlook my complete indifference to any form of team sport and attend the opening weekend.

DeLappe’s script is every bit as original and effective as reports indicated. The majority of the scenes take place during the team’s pre-game warmups. Overlapping dialogue thrusts us into the lives of these young women as they chatter about classes, tampons, boys, and their chance to attend the national championship. DeLappe cleverly crafts these seemingly banal lines in a way that seamlessly reveals the characters and their concerns.

The nine ladies are known by their team numbers. First names are rarely used. The team is called The Wolves, and DeLappe revels in a metaphorical exploration of pack mentality. We see the entire complex hierarchy: the battling alphas, the subservient cubs, and the anomalous case of a homeschooled new girl who doesn’t understand the rules. The dramatic structure is subtle enough to be nearly invisible, but it is carefully designed to pull you in.

Dietze’s direction is sharp, richly detailed, and filled with expressive theatrical life. The character quirks and the laughs are what you notice first, but Dietze’s sure hand guides the audience to a strong sense of empathy for the team members. The surprising emotional wallop of the final scene is kept on track through the trust shared by Dietze and her talented cast.

The Wolves is the definition of an ensemble show. The entire cast creates a gallery of varied characters who will tease your memory long after you leave the theater. Those hard-working young ladies are Jacqueline Besson, Katherine Cronyn, Makeda Declet, Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Connor Kelly-Eiding, Minzi, Ellen Neary, Donna Zadeh,, and Caitlin Zambito. Alison Martin also makes her moments count as a Soccer Mom.

The Wolves is another production from The Echo Theater Company that celebrates what is best in Los Angeles intimate theater.

Echo Theater Company    March 16 – April 22. 2019    www.EchoTheaterCompany.com