Front & Center: The Wolves
I like the idea of a small, intimate theater where audiences enjoy an up-close relationship with cast members for a couple of hours. It allows guests to become emotionally involved in a play and understand it more deeply—and that is the intent of The Rep’s small, lower-level Studio Theatre, where Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves is on stage.
In the production, directed by Melissa Rain Anderson, the audience flanks a soccer sideline where the Wolves, a high school girls’ team, holds warmups. It’s a clever setup, much like bleachers on a playing field, but beyond that, the vehicle starts to break down a bit. The play contains a fair amount of profanity, and while that may be the norm among teenagers today, it doesn’t do much for the audience’s connection to the story. The language used by many of the characters might create awkwardness for some viewers, just as it can in real relationships, and it seems to negate the point of intimate theater (perhaps without meaning to). In all honesty, the characters who impacted me the most were the ones who didn’t need off-color language to communicate their feelings.
As the story progresses, the girls navigate the highs and lows of developing emotions, and some are understandably angry about family conflicts, social injustice and problems at school. They’re known only by their jersey numbers, which distances them even further from the audience, but their different personalities still manage to shine through. Some team members are shy and naive, others more outspoken. Most of their conversations are rapid-fire and typical of excited teenagers; unfortunately, that also prevents the audience from gaining a deep understanding of the characters. They often talk loudly over each other for several minutes at a time, so very few of their real emotions and ideas make it to the surface.
With that said, there are admirable and endearing actors in the mix, and I was impressed by their mastery of stream-of-consciousness dialog. Rachael Logue stands out as #25, the team captain who does her best to keep the players focused on battling their opponents instead of each other. Maya Christian’s #13 is funny and sarcastic, and Mary Katharine Harris does a wistfully appealing job of playing pensive newcomer/outsider #46.
Late in the performance, a sudden soliloquy by Soccer Mom (Nancy Bell) seems jarring and out of place. And a serious tragedy is hinted at, but the audience never gets to know exactly what it is. It’s hard to form a personal attachment to the story when emotional resolution is lacking. It runs through Feb. 3.
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Tony Award-winning classic at The Fabulous Fox Theatre