“The Wolves” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – February 9, 2020

A STRONG PRODUCTION, “THE WOLVES” IS LESS COMPELLING ABOUT GROWING UP

“THE WOLVES”
Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Stray Cat Theatre can always be counted on to bring local theatergoers the most trend-setting shows that other local theaters avoid.  Not only do the plays the company presents come to interesting points about our confusing contemporary society, the productions are consistently well staged and sublimely acted.  Theatergoers never leave a Stray Cat production without issues to discuss.

But occasionally the plays probe less dynamic issues that impact current culture.  Such is the case with the Arizona premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s widely acclaimed “The Wolves.”  It debuted in multiple New York productions in 2016 and 2017.  The play looks at nine high school girls in a soccer league and the discussions they have before games and warm-ups.

Some of the discussions explore, although with minor depth, multiple world events, but too much of the chatter revolves around coming maturity and includes such inanities as rivalries between the girls, how each chooses to handle new physical challenges, and how they deal with evolving romantic escapades.  “The Wolves” provides a vivid view into how young women handle these often perplexing issues but much of the play deals with trivial matters all young people experience.  It is hard to believe that “The Wolves” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize because many other coming-of-age dramas make these questions more compelling.

The Stray Cat production is strong from Heather Lee Harper’s staging which tries to make the girls’ issues dynamic but occasionally allows the production to slow to a deathly crawl.  The striking set, a huge, slopping expanse of grass, represents the soccer field so it reminds theatergoers what brings these women together.  And while it is acknowledged that soccer is a popular sport, unless you are fascinated by it, the chatter about the whys of winning and losing isn’t always engrossing between discussions about the players’ maturing.

Each soccer player is presented as unique in well developed characterizations and each performer pulls their weight to make this a strong ensemble presentation.  Standouts are Erin Malimban as the team’s quasi coach since their real coach is a worthless drunk and Elizabeth Broeder as a player eliminated from play at the crucial qualifying game.  Julia Murphy who essays an initially rejected player who later becomes the team’s binding force often speaks too softly so critical dialogue gets lost.

If girls maturing into women interests you, “The Wolves” might entrance but if growing up with an obsession for soccer isn’t your thing, the play will prove less forceful than most Stray Cat Theatre productions.  “The Wolves” plays through February 22.  For tickets, contact the Tempe Center for the Arts box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: B

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