WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
Rarely, in the last two decades has a playwriting debut created such a stir as Sarah DeLappe’s off-Broadway hit, The Wolves. Pulitzer Prize finalist, the play also placed in or won several other high profile contests, including the Yale Drama Prize, The Relentless Award, and the Sky Cooper New American Play Award- an astonishing feat. I have never heard of a play placing in all these contests.
The Wolves is a high school indoors girls’ soccer team and the play unfolds in a series of scenes before games while the players stretch and warm up. There is no set-up or “inciting incident”, nor is there a particularly focused central question. The Girls, (all the characters are recognized by their jersey numbers and not names) talk in overlapping, sometimes dual conversations about everything from feminine protection products to fate of 90 year old former Khmer Rouge criminal who committed horrible acts of genocide in the Vietnam War and was recently arrested. I kept waiting for the dialogue to lead to a plot or help with story structure, but it didn’t. I was put off by the lack of plot and story at first but because the dialogue is so sharp, authentic, and kinetic I quickly got caught up in the girls’ stories/lives. Of course it helps that the play is smashingly well acted by an incredible ensemble and directed brilliantly by Melissa Rain Anderson.
The power of this play comes from its deceptive simplicity. It manages to emotionally involve the audience without a major incident until about three quarters of the way through the play. This makes it almost subversive. Its profoundness creeps up on you, and you are left raw, just like the members of the soccer team whose lives are turned upside down one fateful winter day. DeLappe is often compared to Annie Baker, whose hyper realism has earned a Pulitzer Prize. But, here in The Wolves, DeLappe, in my opinion has the upper hand, because the play is breezy and brief, and doesn’t get bogged down in excessive length or indulgent pauses and spaces. It helps to be quick when you are not that concerned with plot.
The Wolves, really is fantastic theater—in its own quiet way. And like most art that affects you, you will walk away not understanding how it bowled you over. Is it really important that you understand? No. But take my word go see it. It’s a knockout.
At Syracuse Stage until February 22