Yoh Theatre Players: Powerful Performances in Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves.

In three intense performances this past weekend, the Yoh Theatre players brought to life “The Wolves” the 2016 play by Sarah DeLappe that centers on the experiences of some contemporary high school girls soccer players. Rather than being performed in the typical two or three acts, this play unfolds in six pre-game warm-ups at an indoor soccer facility, during the girls’ weekly Saturday morning pre-game warmups. Seating was limited for the performances because Marcia Bender, the director, and her students chose to have the audience on stage with them. The set consisted of nothing more than turf and the audience in seats on stage almost like stadium seating.

The lack of scenery made the audience and actors focus on the complex dialogue that DeLappe penned. Bender said she found the play after she saw an interview with DeLappe who wrote the play after attending an art exhibit from different countries around the world, most pieces/images were deeply disturbing to DeLappe. Bender said DeLappe was affected by the contrast between the exhibit and the attendees who saw the exhibits but then almost seemed unaffected because they were typing/texting/posting on their phones.

The first scene (pre-game warm-up) opens with a discussion of a murderous Cambodian dictator. Each girl chimes in about the Khmer Rouge, some seem to lack knowledge about the topic but render an opinion regardless.. At times it seemed like three or four conversations were taking place at once. In fact, according to Bender, some parts of the script included three columns of dialogue directing the actors through their various conversations.

The overlapping dialogues showed how each girl had concerns of their own but still weighed in on the main discussion. The audience eavesdrops into one conversation then moves on to the next, picking up bits and pieces of what current events matter to these girls.

Some of what the audience picks up are conversations of period (menstruation) gossip, talk of boyfriends, their coach’s obvious hangovers, and speculations about the new girl, #46 (Giana Fiorino), who is said to live in a “yogurt” (a yurt with her single mother.) The awkward #46 repeatedly bursts into conversations, desperately trying to fit in, at the most inappropriate times such as mentioning how the team's striker, #7 (Madison Niez), had an abortion.

In every scene, the girls are going through a stretching routine led by #25 the team captain (Maria Sell). Most of the actors learned the basics of soccer for this performance. They spent many days not only running dialogue but also running-running. After dress rehearsal, Eve Cole who plays #13 said “we did A LOT of running.”

Each girl basically became their characters, some felt they even had real-life characteristics of the player they were portraying. By watching their actions and interactions and listening to the dialogue they deliver with finesse, the audience could easily identify who the girls are on and off the field and how they fit in on this team and at school and at home.

The dialogue at times is rough and challenging but each of these actors did not fail to become their character regardless of the character’s flaw or issue. #7 (Madison Niez) constantly uses the “f-word” (Bender said she had to remind the girls “not to swear outside of the script”); the goalie, #0 (Bronwyn Morris) suffers from social anxiety attacks and vomits before every game; #2 (Nina Borzakewski) is the “queen of concussions” and appears at a practice with headgear her mom is making her wear from now on, she even has a nose bleed before one of the games and she has a secret eating disorder.

A ski trip taken by #7 (Madison Niez) and #14 (Ella Ballou) before the second-to-last game leaves the team suffering from injuries and some serious drama. After #7 suffers a season-ending injury on the field and adds to the injury on the ski trip, she can only watch with envy from the sidelines as three of her team mates are scouted for college.

#7 (Madison Niez) and #14 (Ella Ballou) bring their ski trip drama to the field as well. #14 expresses her anger towards #7 about being left with a strange guy (#7's boyfriend's friend). #2 (Nina Borzakewski) tries to comfort #17 with a gift but the emotions are too high and the other team mates are left speechless after witnessing the screaming match.

Tragedy strikes before the final game after #14 (Ella Ballou) is struck by a car and killed while jogging with earphones on early morning in a snow storm as #13 says “who does that?”

Her teammate’s death causes #0 to break down in the stadium at night, but she also rallies and overcomes her anxiety. The girls slowly gather at the stadium, all are grieving, and assume that their other teammates will blow off the game causing a forfeit, it feels as though the Wolves’ season will end on the lowest possible note, until all of the other girls come to the stadium one by one.

#25 (Maria Sell) arrives with a buzz cut and the girls gather around rubbing her head to feel the softness of her very short hair. They all take their places in their safe warm-up circle. And suddenly their troubles and sadness don’t seem quite so bad.
As they rally together, #14's grieving mom (Megan LaCroix) suddenly appears, giving them a delirious speech about how they have banded together in spite of everything, leaving everyone stunned. She remembers she brought them oranges just like she used to do when her daughter played with them but left them in the car. She runs off to retrieve them.

Meanwhile the girls huddle up chanting “We are the Wolves, We are the Wolves, We are the Wolves” then end with a howling scream, releasing all their pent up tension, sadness, grief, and pressures of being a teenage girl.

#14's mom (Megan LaCroix) returns with the oranges, they all gather for a group hug and the theatre goes black.

More photos: CLICK HERE