“The Wolves,” written by Sarah DeLappe and directed by Lily Odekirk ’18 for Upstage, revolves around the
lives of a high school girls’ indoor soccer team, telling its story only through the team’s conversations on the field before their weekly games. The girls interrupt, talk over each other and run warm-ups while they talk about everything from the Khmer Rouge to ski vacations to pregnancy scares. In certain scenes, particularly one where the team is practicing their passing skills as they speak, the background noise distracts from the dialogue to the point where I was straining to hear. It makes sense in the context of the story and creates great visuals onstage, but the Ruth Nagel Jones theatre doesn’t have the best acoustics for soccer-ball-bouncing.
Despite the difficulty of hearing or understanding dialogue in some scenes and the tendency of the dialogue to stop, start and veer into the mundane in its attempt to mimic real-world conversations, “The Wolves” stands out as one of Upstage’s best productions in recent years.
This is in no small part thanks to the simple but excellent lighting and set design, beautifully emulating the bizarre environment of the indoor turf eld. The stage is covered in bright green turf and the harsh lighting makes the players seem more vulnerable and exposed, especially when the lights are turned up.
What really shines about the play, though, is the characters. The cast worked with Wellesley’s varsity soccer team for weeks to get into shape and learn the ways that practices and warm-ups run in real life. They move around the eld and handle the ball like high school girls whose life revolves around knowing the ins and outs of the sport would.
Their friendships feel as natural as their maneuvering. “The Wolves” feels like a breath of fresh air in the way it centers on teenage girls and depicts their lives honestly, without making them the pawn of the boys or men in their lives.
Chiara Seoh ’19 in particular shines as the abrasive but also deeply hurting #7, who deals with emotional growing pains with outbursts and streams of curse words that feel familiar to anyone who’s been, or known, a teenage girl with anger management issues. Uttkantha Sindhwani ’21 gives a more understated but equally admirable performance as #14, whose conflict with #7 over her boyfriend, his friends and various broken promises makes up the emotional heart of the play.
Almost all of the girls have their moments, even the stoic #00, played by Diana Lobontiu ’18. She is almost completely silent for most of the play—until she isn’t, when she has a mental breakdown onstage alone that is performed with incredible power.
The show certainly has its weak points. Because of the play’s realistic bent, characters occasionally use politically incorrect language in their dialogue, and there are too many moments where the girls act almost out of character when calling each other out. I agree with director Lily Odekirk ’18 that it’s important to preserve a balance between portraying the words of privileged characters accurately and unapologetically using insensitive language without calling it out. The problem is that Delappe’s script too often has the team side too quickly with the character or characters making the callout, portraying even the most privileged characters quick to admit fault and apologize, rather than go the normal route of getting defensive. There’s a lot of missed opportunity here that could have gone to show the ways privileged people react when their privilege is called into question.
Minor grievances aside, “The Wolves” was a tremendous production that feels like a breath of fresh air in a medium where the stories told are too often straight and male, with women, and especially teenage girls, as an afterthought. The way they interact with and play off of each other is genuine and powerful.