Cal Poly Pomona theatre premiers ‘The Wolves’

By Reyes Navarrete, March 19, 2024

A pack of nine teenage girls on a soccer team stretch, drill and dish about the Cambodian genocide, the difference between Plan B and abortion, and whether their coach has a hangover. A contemporary play that takes place during adolescence, “The Wolves” depicts the touching relationships of girl jocks in an approachable experience worth viewing multiple times.

Written by Sarah DeLappe in 2016, “The Wolves” is an award-winning play that opened March 8, and will run until March 17, presented by CPP’s Department of Theatre and New Dance.

Inspired after viewing an exhibition of Middle Eastern and North African Art at the New Museum in New York, DeLappe said in an interview she felt there was a disconnect between viewing the art about war and then moving on in her day getting cold brew coffee. According to DeLappe, the gap in experiences was interesting, and she chose to explore that disconnection with the people most removed from war she could think of: suburban teenage girls on a soccer field.

The play is unapologetically Fem. From the point of view of growing up and relating to the world as a young woman, the performances feel grounded and provide enough insight into why the characters behave the way they do. The age of the characters grips the viewer with their naive dispositions in a way that relates to the human spirit.

During the course of 90 minutes, the all-woman ensemble practice drills and assert their points of view by punctuating “like” after every utterance, fighting to be understood.

The girls of The Wolves warm up before their game as #11, played by Miyuki Mori, stares off into the distance. | Courtesy of CPP Theatre and New Dance department

“The nature of this writing is kind of intimidating because it’s so real, because it really replicates exactly how a group of teenage girls speak,” said Emily McCormick, a fourth year Theatre major and cast member who played #14.

The characters feel multidimensional as the audience begins to piece together hints of backstory behind the layered relationship of the athletes. The actors talk over each other, and don’t always finish their sentences or thoughts, said McCormick. The experience of the performances is compelling given the conversational nature of the dialogue is more authentic. The play is not interested in broadcasting every feeling an actor has like in a tradition play, instead, the audience seemingly overhears how these teens bond by understanding the world through their friends and their limited stations in life.

“The audience is really peering in on the nitty gritty of these relationships, which you hear the ways that they kind of stab each other in the back, and the ways that they lift each other up at the same time, and how they’re competing while still having this incredible bond with one another,” said McCormick.

The set design cleverly uses the limited space of a small studio theatre in Building 25 to its advantage, drawing the audience in by having them almost ground level with the actors. The audience is seated on the sidelines of an astroturf field behind nets, watching “The Wolves” in their habitat. As they move and pass the ball to each other, every facial expression is noticeable given how close the actors perform, and their body language paints a subtext to the characters’ dispositions. Even the moments where the girls are relatively motionless, their words and actions hang significantly in the still theater.

“I think there are parts of the play that feel very mundane and like, ‘why is this a play?’” said the Director Jessica Hanna. “‘Like, why are we watching this?’ And it’s like the accumulation of getting to know these girls and being with them, and remembering ourselves, remembering when we were young, all those kinds of things. And then having that moment of like, oh, we are with them as they are going through a life changing moment.”

These suburban girls feel removed from the worldly topics they are discussing, but the characters deal with their own set issues and as a team. The team captain, #25, whose father was the previous coach, takes on the role of leader of the group, pushing the team on the field. #00, the goalie, is intensely quiet in reaction to the pressure she puts on herself — she ends up running off to vomit before each game. #14 tries hard to be the BFF to her more popular friend, #7, but struggles to get the validation she desperately craves. Yet, the girls are still a team. #14’s mother brings oranges for them every weekend, and in an act of unity, they pose together in a team photo with orange slices peering out of their mouths.

The cracks in the team’s foundation begin to spread when a new girl joins the team. #46 is awkward, apparently from her years in home school. She is the unfortunate lamb who joins “The Wolves” despite the team’s lack of interest in her.

#13, played by Angie Lee, asserts herself in front of her team. | Courtesy of CPP Theatre and New Dance

“These girls are in that bubble together, and 46 popped that bubble,” said Miyuki Mori, Sociology major with a minor in Theatre and cast member who played #11. “We see that happening on stage. We see that they sense an intruder in their teenage minds. They just don’t feel comfortable with it. And it just shows that they’re talking about all these things — these world issues in this bubble, and there’s so many other communities in the world that are doing the same, they’re just not bringing it out. And that’s what theater does, it takes issues from smaller communities and kind of makes it really obvious and shares that.”

The play’s sensibilities deal with inward desires and outward expressions of the young girls. It is hinted that #2 has an eating disorder when others comment on her body, yet, no one ever discusses the issue outright. Each character works through their relationships with their teammates and their position in the world.

According to Hanna, “The Wolves” is quickly becoming a classic play. It lends itself to compelling performances, in a short amount of time, that will leave a lasting impression easily accessible for audiences.

“It’s not a script of how to have these relationships, but a symbol of what could come from relationships around you … there are so many things going on with our life that kind of distract us from the relationships that we do have,” said Miyuki.

Feature image courtesy of the CPP Theatre and New Dance department 

Verified by MonsterInsights