★★★★☆ - Delicious
It’s an ensemble piece that begins with a cacophony of conversation. Just as in life, people talking over one another, having separate conversations though they’re part of the same gathering. This gathering happens to be of the female Wolves indoor soccer team. Thus the title, “The Wolves,” of this incredible script by Sarah Delappe, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It won the Obie Ensemble Award, a Drama Desk Award, a…and, and, and. And recently closed a run at Lincoln Center.
Fear not, the entire play isn’t a jumble of sound. There are conversations as you’d expect from teenage girls as they try to make sense of the world at large, the affairs at home, in school and each other’s lives. This is a peek into how they interact, how they cope, with the kind of loving snark anticipated from such diverse personalities and backgrounds.
There are no character names, per se. Though the girls occasionally address a fellow player by name, those are tough to catch, so characters are listed by jersey number. It’s tough to review an ensemble piece, because the best you can do is cite the standouts who, in my mind, were #13 (Kate Reilly), #46 (Jasmine Kojouri), and #7 (Sarah Spraker). Oh, and #00 (Shambrion Treadwell), always in the moment, who remained silent until the final scene of the play.
Not to say there weren’t issues. There were. As when #2 (Anastasia Weiss) goes to comfort #8 (Stacia Zinkevich) after there have been insensitive comments made. Weiss’ actions and body language didn’t communicate much of anything at all, not even false perfunctory pity.
Overall, the warm-up exercises which are the bulk of the action, aren’t done with any sense of seriousness, at least not for an undefeated team. Carvelli, Kojouri, and Treadwell, though, seemed to have some of the right moves.
I’m picky about details; that’s no secret. #25 (Jamie Carvelli) sports a wig at one point, and the point is too obvious at the back of her head. We get crowd noises at the top of a scene to establish we’re at an indoor soccer stadium, and then everything goes silent as the dialogue begins. Low murmuring, or crowd noises from the other matches every so often would keep us grounded at what is going on in the place, what they’re warming up for – practice or a match.
Yet, Kate St-Pierre still provides a good production. Part of that genius is in the casting of Valerie Carpenter-Bernstein as Soccer Mom. The minute she enters, trying mightily to hold in her emotions, it was as if she held fate of the world in her hands. You could’ve heard a pin drop in the ArtSquare Theatre, as she bears her soul in grief and tears your heart out. Her performance is nothing short of brilliant.
The style of such indirect dialogue isn’t new, Mamet and Shepherd paved the way, but this is the kind of script that crackles with raw energy. By the time you read this, this ensemble will have settled in and sparks will surely fly.
What: The Wolves
When: 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through February 18
Where: Art Square Theatre, 1025 S First St, #110
Tickets: $15 - $25 (www.cockroachtheatre.com, 725- 222-9661)