“The YOH Theatre Players have again come through with a remarkable evening of theatre with their latest production, The Wolves. This is a cast of serious actors who prove their worth playing a girls indoor soccer team. Again, Director Marcia Bender has chosen the perfect vehicle to highlight the talented and capable young women of YOH, proving after a stunning Mama Mia! that their abilities are multi-layered.
This is an intense play made all the more so by the proximity of the audience whose members sit on stage and overhear what are meant to be private conversations as the girls warm up before their games. The dialogue overlaps as in real life with intimate discussions among two or three groups at one time. Does it sound like chaos, you ask? No, because the playwright, Sarah DeLappe, carefully orchestrates her dialogue, much as an orchestrator does with music.
The set is the Astro Turf of an indoor soccer field with the central circle and nothing else.
With this format, and with this being a cast of teens playing their relative ages rather than having the extra task of first having to play an adult and then on top of that to play a specific role, these girls have achieved the ultimate excellence of their crafts. The result is a totally authentic and believable play that is even more realistic than film because it is live. Because the audience is not removed from the area of intimacy, we experience the intensity of the dialogue, which seems like off-the-cuff remarks, but is, in fact, incisive and character defining.
At a discussion with the actors after the play, and audience members asked if that was a problem for the actors. (It certainly could be. I know that I would have a difficult time tossing off the f-bomb every third word with my mother sitting in the front row.) One player immediately reacted with one word – ‘terrifying!’
That received a laugh, but it had to be, nevertheless, true. Actors count on that separation from the audience that distance provides for security and confidence. Another player, however, said that she thought this play was made to have that relationship. A third likened it to having a conversation in the hall at school where it could be overheard and also overlap someone else’s conversation.
These actors really know their craft and were articulate about it at the after-show discussion. Asked how they achieved getting into their characters, one said they first learned to put on that character’s walk (and I noticed that these girls did exactly that. Some of them did not walk the way they do in real life, but the way their characters would walk.
Two others talked about how they related to their characters. One said that the key was to find something in the character that was also in her and work on that aspect before trying to put in the parts of the character that weren’t her. Another cited the method actors’ mantra that you have to become that character and to think like that character and give the character more life than was implied in the script.
Each scene begins with a stretching warm-up led by #25. During these warm-ups, typical banal conversation overlaps earth shattering thought and later personal revelations by the girls. In the first scene, for example, a conversation about which feminine product to use overlaps a discussion of the Cambodian Dictator who orchestrated the genocide.
This becomes a formula for all the components of a coming-of-age story of the universal teenage girl as she is shown in her myriad of types, roles, and portraits and as she experiences personal tragedies and tries to maintain an identity. The acting was simply superb!
This is a real ensemble piece. No one has a ‘starring’ role, yet each has her own special part and her moments.
Maria Sell, who plays #25, said at the after-play discussion that she had to find within herself the parts of her that could identify with her character of loving control, loving the spotlight. She gives her all to this performance, including her hair, as she appears in the final scene with a buzz cut. Overlapping her instructions is first Allison Bradley, as #11 with her morbid discussion of world politics. She is smart, articulate, and provocative. She is really good at this intimate type of theatre in that she is natural and totally believable. She is the one how, at the discussion, likened that intimacy of the audience to conversations in the hall.
Two real ‘types’, Eve Cole #13 as the stoner and Celia Burrington as #8, the childlike bright light are both amazing in their portrayal of stereotypes without resorting to caricature. They both had impeccable timing and flawlessness of motion as well as a realism of portrayal that was astounding. Eve’s wackiness and Celia’s wish to be part of the crowd but not to give away the optimist that lay within were excellent!
Giana Fiorino plays #46, the new girl is totally believable and alternates from funny to mysterious to chagrinned. The goalie, #00 is Bronwyn Morris and she says very little but is one of the best actors in the cast. Her face betrays her as she is stressed beyond endurance. She is the only one with a scene all to herself in which after the tragedy of the death of a team member she relinquishes her self-control and lets forth an animal howl that says it all.
Madison Niez and Elizabeth Ballou, as #7 and #14, respectively play off each other well as good friends off the field. When they have their fight it is very convincing because we have seen them sparring verbally throughout the play.
Then there is #2. She is an enigma, beautifully acted by Nina Borzekowski. She is quiet, innocent, and nominally a religious do-gooder. You wonder what is going on with her until she devours all the remaining orange slices after practice revealing her bulimia.
But the final scene of the play reveals an amazing job of acting by the Soccer Mom, played by Megan LaCroix. She has lost a daughter to car accident and she comes in railing at the tragedy, in an emotional confrontation with God and justice and the world and then ends up cheering the girls on toward victory. She tells them they are a team. They were not sure they would even have a team that day because of all the tragedy, injury, and heartbreak, but from her grief comes a calling together of the team. Wow! What a performance! That was astounding!
The whole thing was astounding. Great job, YOH Players!”