By Tulis McCall

There is something both delicious and humbling about this splendid production of Sarah DeLappe‘s The Wolves at Lincoln Center.  The Playwrights Realm has nurtured this play into a delicate yet blunt portrait of young women who are learning the game of relationships – and doing it on their own.  And it has landed with a glorious explosion at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.

The Wolves are a soccer team in Somewhere America.  Over six weeks we see them in that intimate time between the street and the playing field.  They are warming up, stretching mostly, but at other times doing workouts for strength and cardio – may I just say that this must be the most physically fit and limber cast anywhere in New York.  For the most part they are always multi-tasking.  Whatever it is they are doing, they are talking while they are doing it.  Silence only sneaks in when they are all on the same inhale.

The chatter is raw and focused.  The subjects range from the Khmer Rouge to the coach’s hangover to sex to alternative living styles (one character lives in a Yert).  There is nothing off limits including the demand that some things must be off limits.

This team is in the process of going through the playoffs intended for the finals.  What the league is, we never find out.  No matter, for over the 90 minutes we share with these young women we really don’t care.  We also don’t care that we never find out their names.  These women are known by their numbers.  A kind of short-hand they share.

Each woman has her own turmoil that she either shares or tries to keep hidden from the team.  This team takes no prisoners, and if you share your secret you must be prepared to be excoriated as only teenagers can do.  On the other hand you could be sheltered.  One never knows.  Because these women, for all their bravado, for all their swagger, for all their bluster, are children stepping into the arena of adulthood.  They are ricocheting off of one another and the other people in their lives like pinballs.  One missed tweak and they are sidelined.  One overstep and they are catapulted into a new responsibility.  Life is a minefield, and they do not know what they do not know.

As the story unfolds, Sarah DeLappe weaves us a journey into which we are all pulled.  Lila Neugebauer has directed with a choreographer’s eye and and a philosopher’s heart.  The actors each commit fully to one another and to the larger story they are creating.  The audience is pulled into these girls’ lives without any fuss, as if we were dragonflies twirling on the eddies of a dream.  By the time we realize where we have landed, these women have a grip on our hearts that we had not forseen.

These women show us all, women and men, who we were and who we still are: innocents navigating the hairpin turns of our lives.  Underneath all the crap that we accumulate as we travel our personal road – we are, at our core, innocent and vulnerable.  Would that more of us had read that memo.

These are Wolves of hope and innocence, determination and vulnerability, bravery and passion.  Pay them a visit.

THE WOLVES – by Sarah DeLappe, Director: Lila Neugebauer
WITH: Paola Sanchez Abreu, Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Susannah Perkins

Set designer: Laura Jellinek; Costume designer: Asta Bennie Hostetter; Lighting designer: Lap Chi Chu; Sound designer: Stowe Nelson

Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, New YorkThe Playwrights Realm, in association with New York Stage & Film and Vassar’s Powerhouse Theatre Season, by arrangement with Scott Rudin, Eli Bush
Presented by Lincoln Center Theater.  Through January 8.  Tickets