“The Wolves” is a winning play about a winning team

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The Wolves six women wearing soccer gear with one standing on the right with crutches
(L-R) Mikey Gray, Katie Griffith, Owen Laheen, Maggie Thompson, Annie Fox, Jasmine Sharma in The Wolves. Photo by Charles T. Erickson.

An honest, hard-hitting look at the world of modern high school girls

The Wolves photo of the actors playing soccer
(L-R) Maggie Thompson, Isabel Pask, Jasmine Sharma, Mikey Gray, Maria Habeeb, Renea Brown, Katie Griffith, Owen Laheen, Annie Fox in The Wolves. Photo by Charles T. Erickson.

McCarter Theatre Center opens its newest season with The Wolves, a play about a high school girls’ indoor soccer team that was a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist. It explores the relationships between and among the nine members of the team, with shifting friendships and alliances tested through the course of a season. It is a play of grace and strength, and it is a privilege to be part of its audience.

Playwright Sarah DeLappe has created a portrait of modern teen women in a competitive environment, discussing the big and small issues of life in the ritualistic setting of their pre-game warm-ups. It is, at first, a little like being at a party and hearing multiple conversations at the same time, trying to make sense out of them while only catching parts of any of them. But the girls and their attitudes and personalities grab your attention and soon make any temporary confusion a minor issue. These are fully fleshed-out characters, and as the ninety-minute play proceeds, one is drawn into the rituals of team cohesion while learning, through the bits and pieces of ordinary conversations, the back stories of each of the girls. And you find yourself rooting for these young women as challenges affect the team.

McCarter’s Artistic Director, Sarah Rasmussen, has directed her cast with a light touch that makes the play work. The result is a strong ensemble performance, with each actor given chances to shine.  The cast, in alphabetical order, is: Renea S. Brown as #00 (the characters are known by their player numbers), the goalie; Annie Fox as #13; Katie Griffith as #12; Maria Habeeb as #46, the new addition to the team; Owen Laheen as #11; Brittany Anikka Liu as #25; Isabel Rodriguez, an understudy stepping into the role of #14 for opening night; Jasmine Sharma as #7; and Maggie Thompson as #8.  Finally, actor Katharine Powell makes a strong impression in the final scene as a soccer mom.

Not only is The Wolves written by a woman, directed by a woman, and acted by an all-woman cast, but it is also blessed with a talented all-woman design team. The set, an open space marked off as an indoor soccer field, is the design of Junghyun Georgia Lee, spectacularly lit by Jackie Fox. Raquel Adorno created the uniforms for the Wolves along with other costumes. The sounds of an indoor stadium before a competition were designed by Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca. The show’s Assistant Director, Vocal Coach, Soccer Consultant, Production Stage Manager, and Assistant Stage Manager are also all women.

The Wolves is an honest, hard-hitting look at the world of modern high school girls set in an athletic environment. It is, at turns tense, humorous, sad, and uplifting. It is an embarrassment of riches, and for the serious playgoer, it is a production not to be missed.  I highly recommend traveling to Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center for an evening with The Wolves.

The Wolves is presented by the McCarter Theatre Center at the Roger Berlind Theatre in Princeton through October 16th.  For more information or to order tickets, call the box office at 609-258-2787 or visit mccarter.org.  The wearing of masks in the building is strongly recommended but not required.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first live play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. He works in the box office at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.