MTC Production of The Wolves is a 90-Minute High School Exercise

MTC Production of The Wolves
Is a 90-Minute High School “Exercise”

Upon entering the theater, we were met by a starkly empty stage, with walls painted pastel green.  The feeling the audience might have shared with me was that of looking at an empty gymnasium. – In the scene notes, it was called an “indoor soccer field in Middle America.”  The effective set design by Scenic Designer Kristen Robinson perfectly surrounded the team for deliberate focus on their interpersonal give and take.  The stage floor was perfectly bare so there was no squeaking from contact with tennis shoes that would distract from the dialogue and which we usually hear on a highly-buffed gym floor.

Playwright Sarah DeLappe hasn’t written a play so much for entertainment as she has provided playtime for high school female fitness and testosterone-building.  For inveterate theater patrons, it may indeed have been a boring high-school-level exercise in personal jabs about immigration, being “home schooled,” and lame jokes; such as, “We don’t study genocides until our senior year.”  Another line was something to the effect of, “Why waste time getting to know yourself when there’s so much knowledge out there!”  The dialogue was trivial and devoid of sportsmanship and substance.

The authenticity of Scene 1 was that of the high school girls’ soccer team, “The Wolves,” doing warm-up calisthenics, which immediately brought us into their team-world of workouts.  The back and forth with the soccer ball and the personal “soccer”- punches certainly could prepare a high-school team for war interpersonally and on the field.

 

In Scene 2, we really get down to the gossip fest and back-biting until the loser team learns the consequences of their behavior.  Maybe the take-away for the audience was learning  quick physical fitness routines for exercises to do in a pinch and the admonition that (the game) …”never gets easier; *you* just get better.”  (The same could easily be said for how we operate in life. . .)  The single “funny” bit was the team pose for the orange slices photo.  The team passing workouts brought welcome-relief from the back-biting, and the team coming-together after a big loss was touching.  The real team-bonding, however, came too late in the production.

The cast performances were each and collectively effective.  The cast performing Sunday, March 25th, included Nicole Apostol Bruno (#13); Jannely Calmell (#14); Carolyn Faye Kramer (#8); Isabel Langen (#2); Betsy Norton (#00); Neiry Rojo (#46); Emma Roos (#7); Liz Sklar (Soccer Mom); Sango Tajima (#25); Portland Thomas (#11)

Sango Tajima (#25 – as Team Captain and Coach) was the standout, cast as the (positive) role model for the team in demanding greater tough ball action than tough gossip and back-biting!

Betsy Norton (#00) made a seriously good impression of her acting ability (and agility) in her dramatic meltdownEmma Roos (#7) was convincingly forgiving and supportive, especially after her torn ACL, when she came in to lend emotional support to her teammates after their big loss.  Nicole Apostol Bruno (#13) was effectively negative about everything.  Liz Sklar was also convincing as the Soccer Mom when she changes in a heartbeat from giving a supportive pep talk to a tearful rant.

The production’s Creative Team was up to its usual excellent work.  Kudos to Sound Designer Madeleine Oldham for the dramatic sounds that set the tone for scene changes.  The sound effects rocked the house!

The choreography by Soccer Coach (for real) Shane Kennedy was excellent! The skilled passing and kicking looked as graceful and precise as professional dancing (kudos to the cast on this, as well).

The costuming by Katherine Nowacki was excellent.  The team jerseys were perfectly-designed for maneuverability and female privacy (in particular).

The lighting was effectively bright for a gymnasium, as designed by Masha Tsimring.  The Wig Master (Jessica Carter) is commended for the undetectable hair transformations!  Props Artisans Liam Rudisill and Rachel Hurado get a special nod, especially for keeping the soccer balls at just the right pounds for stage handling.

Directors Morgan Green and Giselle Bustani Fontenele did what they could with this script, which wasn’t so much an entertaining theater production as it was a high-school-level “gossip fest” – trite and insensitive.  It certainly did nothing to inspire or lift our spirits.  For all the action and bright lighting, it was difficult to stay awake!  The vehicle was the flaw.

By Elle Alexa Simon, Student of Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic

Photography by Kevin Berne

The Wolves began its West Coast Premiere run March 15, 2018, and will continue, as shown below, through the evening performance on April 8, 2018, at the home of the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley.

Evening Performances: Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m., March 27
through April 8, 2018
Matinees: 1:00 p.m., Thursday, March 29
2:00 p.m.,Sundays, April 1, April 7, and April 8

For tickets, contact Marin Theatre Company at 415-388-5208, or purchase online at boxoffice@marintheatre.org.