(University of Windsor School of Dramatic Art students cast in University Players production of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe at Essex Hall Theatre. From left Alison Adams, Flora Janos, Michelle Blight, Kiera Publicover, Lauren Watson, Kyra Scarlett, Michelle Young, Celeste Fiallos Castillo, and Simone Matheson. Photo above by Melissa Stewart / Courtesy of University Players Windsor.)
It is not often sports fans go behind the scenes to truly understand the human condition of high-powered athletes or even those on an all-girls high school soccer team. In University Players latest production, Sarah Delappe’s The Wolves, which opened Friday night (Nov. 1) at Essex Hall Theatre, the playwright takes her audience into the milieu of the social interactions that play out during regular Saturday practices, not on the field, but in the pre-game warm up.
Scenic Designer David Court and student designer Meaghan Carpentier have done wonders constructing a set complete with the fake grass of the indoor soccer pitch uniquely highlighted with an exaggerated backdrop replicating the game’s net.
With the eight main actors, wearing the same uniforms, there is a sense of unity among the team. It is somewhat of an illusion. The reality is a little more transgressive. Delappe has structured a noble script. She gives each player a unique personality, one which forms in the audience’s mind based singularly on their expressed opinions and observations which, in the opening scene revolves around a topic drawn from the day’s news, the mid-70s situation of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
Despite being in the headlines, not all of the athletes know its exact pronunciation which gives some indication of the true worldliness, or lack thereof, of the teammates.
This is exactly how Delappe uses her characters’ spoken words to construct their individuality. It is really the magic that has earned the play – which first appeared off-Broadway in 2016 – considerable prestige including a critical nod from the New York Times and other awards. Her reason for picking a soccer team might well be symbolic, in itself, given the game’s prohibition of its players’ being able to use their hands or arms.
Most of the conversations between the teammates, which zigzag in and around the main topic of the discussion, are most often stark which allows Delappe to frankly expose the ethnocentrism of those living the dream in middle America. A particularly revealing line is when the girls learn the year’s nationals are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and not Florida. Kiera Publicover, playing #8, Defense, whines.
She fusses such a revelation surely means she will never get to Walt Disney World. It is one of many clever lines which, during the play’s last dress rehearsal before opening night, had the audience, mostly students, laughing out loud on a number of occasions.
The distance between the girls and the outside world is further demarcated with the arrival of a new player who has been trucked around the world by her mother’s career. This, ironically, included a stop in Cambodia.
Simone Matheson, in the role of Bench player #46, brings a certain style of reserve which she often derails with comments not high on the diplomatic scale, at least ones not normally discussed in the group, like mentioning Striker #7’s abortion.
Her arrival, as can be expected, starts the girl’s jaws wagging, particularly where she lives, which is in a “yogurt with her mother.” She actually lives in a yurt, which gives Publicover one very funny line. She asks, “How do you get into a yurt? With a spoon?”
Striker #7, it turns out, has an overabundance of attitude, a role Celeste Maria Fiallos plays to the hilt to the delight of the audience, particularly her agility at spicing just about every sentence with at least one popular “f” word and sometimes two.
But just before the season is about to end, she is sidelined by a ski trip injury which requires her mobility to be aided by crutches. Matheson’s character steps in to fill the void and although she has never been on a team, she has played soccer around the world and gets noticed for her star power as a Striker.
There is a particularly amusing scene in which, the only girl with a name, Megan, #14 Midfield, handled superbly by Flora Janos, brings orange slices her mother has prepared. The girls delight in a group photo with the oranges in their mouths. Megan’s mother, played by Bethany Joy Radford, is the only parent in the play and arrives during a very poignant scene to, in effect, cheer the team on to abittersweet victory.
The Wolves will certainly score a major victory for the University Players as it continues its 61st continuous season. What gives the play its notoriety is the character development nurtured through Delappe’s brilliant script.
Director Heather Davies, in comments in the play’s program, praises Delappe for her developing a play able to describe, “the counterpoint of ‘the body’ having a different focus than the topic of conversation.”
The Wolves will run at the University of Windsor’s Essex Hall Theatre on November 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10, 2019.
Evening performances from Wednesday to Saturday start at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinee performances are at 2 p.m. University of Windsor students can purchase a ticket for just $8, and regular price tickets start at $19. Tickets can be purchased through the University Players website or by calling the box office at 519-253-3000 x2808. For further information visit http://www.universityplayers.com.
Photos in this article by Melissa Stewart
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.