How interesting are the live of teenage female soccer players? As it turns out, pretty interesting. “The Wolves” is officially open at Salt Lake Acting Company, and it is a show worth seeing. New playwright Sarah DeLappe touches on an array of sensitive topics, almost enough to fill out a roster. However, she doesn’t fulfill every topics she introduces.
“The Wolves” begins with an intriguing angular set of turfgrass extending into the audience. Simple, consistent costume design and lighting choices contrast the bold floor and highlight the acting, which is excellent. These nine actresses really delve into believable teenagers and embrace their soccer skills. The characters share moments both heart-wrenching and hilarious while being so typically naive you simply have to laugh. Stand out characters include #11, #8 and #46. #11 (Madi Cooper) is the team captain struggling to keep her peers motivated and unified. #8 (Cezanne Smith) is the source of much of the show’s humor. She is the girl who always says the wrong thing but does it in such an adorable manner no one can ever stay mad. Finally, #46 (Alison Jo Stroud) is an outsider who desperately wants to be part of the team. She is barred by her skill and bullied due to an atypical upbringing. #46 reminds every girl of her teenage nightmare: sometimes being the best is the biggest barrier to acceptance.
These characters start out as children trying to play adults and in a remarkably short time, they realize just how much they want to stay kids. The audience is frequently jarred by harsh language and the discussion of hideous political topics alongside boys, college and, of course, soccer. #7 (Mary Neville) in particular seems the most adult of the players, and yet she is one of the most vulnerable and hurt characters. Without revealing too much, the girls face challenges we would all like to believe are far from a teenager’s mind, and in the process, they ask the audience to think without spewing propaganda.
This show is wonderful and heartwarming at times, but it fell short in a few instances. The playwright clearly has a few relevant topics in mind such as eating disorders, lesbian relationships and anxiety, but these are never fully explored. Now, a ninety-minute play can only do so much. It does deal with loss, bullying, abortion and even race in its relatively short time span. The show does acknowledge and explore without giving its audience answers, but I would love to see what a full show run with intermission might do for some of its subtle undertones. Even severe anxiety, which is acknowledged and expressed by #00, Ireland Nichols, is never given much attention. Perhaps this is the aim of the playwright, or the director wants the audience to think. All in all, “The Wolves” makes for an engaging show, which ends almost where it starts with a slight change.
Critic Vivian Mercier once said of Beckett, “he has written a play in which nothing happens twice” about “Waiting for Godot.” Since that day, many people have argued the true value in Godot is the change in the audience as a result in the staticity of the characters. “The Wolves” has the same the brilliant quality where nothing changes, and yet everything is different by the end. Mostly, it asks its viewers to consider what it means to be a kid, and when are we ready to grow up, if ever? The difference is, “The Wolves” flirts with existentialism in a much more inviting manner than Godot. When you leave the theater, it’s with a feeling of catharsis rather than dread.
Don’t miss a charming play about life’s awkward phase. “The Wolves” runs through Nov. 11, with performances every day but Mondays. Tickets are around $40 and the show runs for 90 minutes without an intermission.
Trigger warning: this play contains strong language.