The beauty of live theater often lies in its ability to surprise you. On the surface, The Wolves doesn’t offer much: just a team of young female soccer players having conversations while preparing for their weekly games. But the play, written by Sarah DeLappe, goes to some very deep places, veering in directions you might never expect.
The nine high school players, who are referred to by number instead of name, almost immediately establish their social hierarchy. No. 25 (Elena Urdaneta) is the team captain who wields her position with an authority that mostly goes unquestioned. No. 7 (Amber Rossi) and No. 14 (Kim Taff) are best friends and also the resident mean girls, quick to look down on others. No. 46 (Ana Hagedorn) is new to the team, and her desire to fit in results in more than a few socially awkward situations.
No. 00 (Sydney Lo), the team’s goalie, has a pre-game routine that keeps her mostly silent while her teammates gab away. No. 13 (Lauren Steele) is the goofball on the team, wearing tie-dye shirts and cracking jokes to keep things light. The three remaining players — No. 8 (Zoe Kerr), No. 2 (Kylie Tru Ritter), and No. 11 (Molly Searcy) — don’t stand out as much, but they help round out the team dynamic and offer insights that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
The opening scene, which features overlapping conversations about the genocide in Cambodia and one player’s menstruation issues, sets the tone for the production. It is at once serious and hilarious as the girls give their opinions on both topics, with the two sometimes intertwining. As DeLappe notes in the program, there is a “choose-your-own-adventure aspect” to the one-act play, with audience members often forced to pay attention to one conversation over another.
This may sound stressful, but DeLappe and director Wendy Dann focus in on key moments when necessary so that nothing truly important is ever missed. But problems like eating disorders, jealousy, concussions, depression, and more are still subtle throughout, brought up in ways that highlight them without overwhelming the story.
The insightful writing is aided by the intimacy of the Wyly Theatre’s sixth floor Studio Theatre. With the audience seated on both sides of a small patch of artificial turf like fans in the stands, the intensity and humor of the various moments come through loud and clear. The bond that this establishes between the actors and audience cannot be overstated.
The cast, which also includes a striking cameo by Allison Pistorius as a soccer Mom, is filled mostly with actors making their Dallas Theater Center debut. Anchored by Brierley Resident Acting Company member Hagedorn, the group gels so quickly that you’d swear they’d been working together for years. Each makes an impact in her own way, with Hagedorn, Urdaneta, Rossi, and Steele delivering particularly noteworthy performances.
Everything about The Wolves, from the events to the characters to the actors, is both ordinary and extraordinary. Like many of Dallas Theater Center's small-stage productions, the impression it leaves is much greater than its setting would have you believe.
Dallas Theater Center's The Wolves runs in the Studio Theatre at Wyly Theatre through April 14.