Actors often say they learn throughout the run of a play and after they’ve given the last performance, they feel like they’re really ready to take it on. The performers in the Jungle Theater’s “The Wolves” have been given the rare opportunity to do just that, and they make the most of it.
If you tried to buy tickets to Sarah DeLappe’s clear-eyed comedy/drama last spring, you know they were a tough get, which is why the Jungle is remounting the show, with the same cast, crew and design team, at the larger Southern Theater. The play remains an astringent, bold-but-subtle peek into the private world of young women on a 17-and-under soccer team, captured in pregame scenes that begin and end with startling blackouts. With something so delicate, done so successfully, there’s a danger of the second run becoming a too-studied replica. But this “The Wolves” is deeper, freer and more moving than the first.
That’s evident from the opening, an eavesdroppy scene in which three simultaneous conversations compete for our attention, the actors calibrating volume and speed as deftly as a chamber orchestra. In my review last year, I did not mention any of them by name, which I’m sure was a conscious decision. We are meant to think of “The Wolves” as a team, a squabbling, advising, loving organism that weathers crises over the course of the play and becomes stronger as a result.
Or, as the captain played by Shelby Rose Richardson says (the characters are known by their numbers; she’s No. 25), “We are a team. You want to play, you play with all of us.”
Seeing the play a second time, I was struck that one could keep coming back to “The Wolves” and follow a different character each time. DeLappe’s play is deliberately elliptical — she alludes to momentous events that occur offstage, as if to remind us we’re privileged to see only part of these young women’s lives — and I wonder if different characters hit harder for individual audience members, depending on how they’re feeling that night.
I was especially moved by Richardson this time, by her portrait of a person who is not a natural leader but who is trying crazily hard to fashion herself into one. And by Becca Hart as No. 7, who, like most tough talkers, is not as tough as she would like others to believe. (How did I miss the great touch that the thick eye makeup No. 7 wears for much of the play is gone in the final scene, when she lets herself be vulnerable?)
The more open space of the Southern also calls attention to how smartly director Sarah Rasmussen uses Sarah Bahr’s practice-field set, often isolating a character or defining the shifting dynamics with smaller groupings. But every single member of this team clearly was committed to making this thing for us. Go see it while you can. Like adolescence, it is upsetting and beautiful and won’t be around for long.