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The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

By Bruce Chadwick

originally published: 10/09/2022

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

Sarah DeLappe’s play The Wolves: Fierce, Fearless, Female, a story about a women’s high school soccer team, needs bigger claws and sharper teeth.

The enterprising look at women in sports, where they have to do battle with men and each other – and parents, too, is like a magnificent soccer kick in which the player strikes the ball brilliantly, but it hits the top of the net and bounces away. It is a solid kick that, like the play, just misses its prey.

The Wolves is the name of the girls team, not their personalities. The girls have qualified for a national championship soccer tournament and are practicing for it when the action starts. It starts slowly, too with all of them doing exercises in a circle and gossiping about people who are arguing madly about the war in Cambodia.

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

This is part of playwright DeLappe’s plan – to show character development among women, that is differently that that among men. There are a lot of discussions about hairstyles and dress. 

The trouble with The Wolves, as I said, is that it needs sharper teeth. Nothing really happens in the ninety minute play. The only real event is when the championship series is moved from Miami to Oklahoma. Who cares? A kick is a kick no matter where you do it, right? Why would so many high school girls get so upset over the change of the game setting?

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

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That’s it. There is no actual game in the play, or pre-game drama. Goodness, there is so much drama in real sports that you’d think the playwright would think up something.

I know this is a play about a girls soccer team, but there are no men in the play. Some coaches are referred to, but not seen. In fact, this is a team with no coach, either. Who manages these kids? Who gives the rah – rah pep talk?

The actresses in the play all do fine work. They are Renea S. Brown, Annie Fox, Katie Griffith, Mara Habeeb, Owen Laheen, Brittany Anikka Liu, Isabel Pask, Katherine Powell, Jasmine Sharma, Maggie Thompson, Mikey Gray and Isabel Rodriguez. 

You walk out of the theater not really caring if the girls win the championship or where they do it.

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

Do you remember the sports play That Championship Season, all about the annual re-unions of the players and coach of a state title winner? That sports play had real oooomph in it. This one does not.

There are good things to be said about it, though.  The direction, by Sarah Rasmussen is taut. She wrings whatever drama there is out of the script and worked closely with the actors to bring out the inner deoths of their characters. The actors, all of the girls, do a fine job. Even though they are only referred to by their numbers, and not their names. They grab hold of their characters and through their dialogue and body movements tell that character’s story (no names? Imagine if number 99 had just hit his 62nd home run?)

The playwright has left herself a lot of room in this play, even though it only runs 90 minutes. She has done a very good job of character development and drawing her characters as different people. They girls do a lot of character swinging at each other. They quickly spread the word that one has had an abortion. Some of those characters stories do not work out, though. Everybody is told that a new member of the team has never played soccer. Well, it turns out that she has and all over the world. Wouldn’t that piece of information get out, and rather quickly?

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

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The girls talk a good game, going over past wins and losses against certain teams. Playwright DeLappe played soccer herself as a girl and her experiences come out in her play. The idea of team spirit is there, as well as unity. A player pretty much ignored is invited into the team circle at the end and that is an example of that.

The Wolves need more bite. If the playwright had just dropped in one 90 minute story to keep the audience interested the play might have been more gripping.

I made up for it though, I drove home and watched NCAA football all night.

Oh, I still am afraid of wolves, but not these.

The Wolves at McCarter Need Sharper Teeth

Wolves is on stage at McCarter Theatre in Princeton until October 16th. 

All photos by Charles T. Erickson

Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as the arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national online weekly magazine. Chadwick holds a Ph. D in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on U.S. history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a history professor at New Jersey City University.



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