By Liz Harris | Guest Writer
As Xavier celebrates 50 years of women at our university, the theatre department’s production of The Wolves seems rather fitting. The all-women play by Sarah DeLappe centers on a young women’s indoor soccer team as they attempt to navigate the social and political complexities of the world, battle their personal demons and eventually suffer a tragic, heart-wrenching loss.
The play itself gets off to a slow and sometimes hard-to-follow start with frequent overlapping dialogue. However, once it reaches its climax, it is apparent that this slowness is essential to establishing the team dynamic, a hierarchy based in who knows the most, or rather, who appears to know the most. Their regular Saturday warm-ups are an all too familiar picture, a battle of “wokeness” that is more about perception than the actual issues. Not only does this make the sudden rapidity of the climax immensely dramatic, it also demonstrates the play’s timeliness.
On top of the large-scale issues the young women attempt to tackle, they are all battling with their own issues that make the play feel very present: abortion, eating disorders, social anxiety, the need to conform and pressure to have sex. The moments in which the characters individually deal with these issues rather than seeking support from their teammates are some of the play’s most powerful as well as examples of the production’s strongest performances, choreography and lighting design.
Player #2 (the young women are known by their jersey numbers rather than their names) struggles with an eating disorder, and her binge episode is an example of acting, choreography and lighting all coming together to produce a chilling moment. The frantic colorful lighting as well as the panic with which Olivia Pletcher, who plays #2, binges a ziplock of orange slices convey the frenzy of this act; however, the choreography is what makes this moment feel real. While #2 starts her frenzy alone, the team soon starts to run a drill, marching across the stage in a grid, and #2 rushes to join them, trying to fit in, but clearly standing out. This choreography along with Pletcher’s acting and the lighting make this a standout moment of the entire production.
Similarly, #00, who has crippling social anxiety, has a startling breakdown, the first indication to the audience that something is off because the loss is not revealed until it is very close to the end of the play. Lauren Davidson, who plays #00, is downright chilling in this moment. It is impossible not to feel her anguish when no one shows up the Saturday after the tragedy. She kicks several soccer balls off stage, not knowing how to cope when her support system is gone, and she lies open on the ground, alone, when the blackout comes. #00 is a character who speaks very little due to her anxiety, making these silent attempts at control and her eventual surrender to the chaos all the more powerful as Davidson’s face is wrenched with emotion.
While these were the two standout moments, the rest of the cast was not weak by any means. Gigi Relic often stole the show as #7, and everyone in the cast masterfully balanced both being a member of the team and being a distinct individual. Xavier’s production of The Wolves is a brilliant showing of the women in the theatre department as well as a fantastic representation of what it means to be a young woman at our current moment in time. I look forward to seeing Xavier Theatre’s talented women further showcased next semester, particularly in the woman-central musical Heathers.