“The Wolves” delivers relatable messages in an artistic way

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Courtesy "The Wolves"

Hunter Siegel (top, from left), Chloe Janisch, Beth Kahan, Elaine Giddens, Rachael Yoder (bottom), Kaitlyn Cheng, Caroline Byrne, Andrea Shapiro and Savannah-Lee Mumford, the cast of “The Wolves,” pose backstage.

Parket Otto, Columnist

A black box production is a more daring artistic venture because what occurs in the background is left up to the imagination of the viewer, which makes the experience that much more interactive.

The cast of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves,” the latest play from the School of Theatre and Dance, understands this perfectly and creates an incredible ensemble piece that values unfiltered emotion above all else.

“The Wolves” premiered Friday at the Sally Stevens Players Theatre in the Stevens Building and will run 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with tickets costing $7.

The play is set in an unspecified American town, and the story takes place over the course of six weeks, right before the soccer matches of the titular Wolves, a women’s team. As the story progresses, the players face the hardships of growing up, including dealing with death, internal turmoil and power struggles among teammates.

The environment of the play is that of a minimalist black box production, with no set and very few props. This gives more attention to the cast members, who excel in their roles.

“The Wolves” is an ensemble piece that focuses on how the group members interact with one another, ranging from one-on-one conversations to overlapping conversations that the entire team is involved in. The nine actors that make up the team create a strong chain, with each link proving to be essential.

To select a stand-out character would be meaningless because of the nature of an ensemble performance. It’s like picking a favorite child. Caroline Byrne, Kaitlyn Cheng, Elaine Giddens, Chloe Janisch, Beth Kahan, Savannah-Lee Mumford, Andrea Shapiro, Hunter Siegel and Rachael Yoder all deliver strong performances that perfectly reflects the nature of their characters. Their chemistry as teammates makes it appear as though the actors have worked together for years rather than months.

Throughout most of the story, the cast members are nameless. Members are known by the numbers on their jerseys, and much of their activities outside of soccer are kept in the dark with some detail popping up occasionally. What is important to the story is what is presently occurring, and the use of character anonymity keeps the audience invested throughout the entire two-hour performance.

The writing is the strongest part of the production because the lines these actors deliver are incredible. The script mixes pop culture references, philosophical discussions and an interwoven web of profanity to create dialogue that feels like real words by real people instead of something written on a page.

“The Wolves” is not afraid to address hard-hitting subjects like abortion, gossip and the pressures of teenage life. When these subjects are tackled, there’s never a sense that the actors don’t know what they’re talking about. The play feels real in every sense of the word.

Despite this, it is not serious all of the time. Plenty of comedy is inserted in the play with characters cracking risqué jokes. Often, the comedy arrives just when it’s needed. With so much heavy subject matter being addressed, the role of comedy is vital.

“The Wolves” is an artistic expression of the teenage wasteland and the journey of nine people in that wasteland. Whether the viewer is young or old, everyone can relate to the issues the characters experience, and it’s a story everyone needs to witness.