Cockroach Theatre’s ‘The Wolves’ marks an energetic, athletic victory

Game on!
Photo: Miranda Alam / Special to the Weekly

Nine athletes sweat, stretch and run drills before games. The stakes are high: just their entire future. They are the Wolves, an elite indoor girls soccer team, where each player dreams of a full-ride scholarship to college while navigating the way to adulthood.

Count on Cockroach to deliver a cutting-edge play that’s oh-so engaging. The Wolves, written by then-26-year-old Sarah DeLappe in 2016, is a millennial masterpiece (but don’t let the ‘M’ word turn you off). The story rolls out in a series of pre-game stretches and warm-ups. As in real life, the conversation doesn’t follow neat turn-taking. Teammates talk over each other; side conversations emerge. Depending on where you sit, the experience might be different.

“I heard it as a musical score or orchestration,” DeLappe said in a filmed Brooklyn College Fireside Chat. “On the page it’s kind of laid out musically, because there’s one column of uninterrupted text and these spurts of dialogue on the side, which was me hearing these nine voices like nine different musical instruments.”

Director Kate St-Pierre was eager to take up the challenge of The Wolves, her third play for Cockroach. “The timing, the movement, the connection to the text and to the actors—I feel it’s all dialed up to 11 in this show,” St-Pierre says. “Then on top of all of that you add the soccer skills.”

The show is written, directed, acted and produced exclusively by women—even down to the set design, lighting and props. “It’s like a breath of fresh air,” says actor Sabrina Cofield, who plays No. 11. “It’s been lovely and empowering.”

This is by design. “I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings,” the playwright told the Hudson Valley News, “as complicated nuanced, very idiosyncratic people who weren’t just girlfriends or sex objects or manic-pixie dream girls, but who were athletes and daughters and students and scholars and people who are trying actively to figure out who they were in this changing world around them.”

Unsurprisingly, The Wolves was a finalist for the 2017 drama Pulitzer. The committee called it a timely play that “illuminates with the unmistakable ping of reality the way young selves are formed when innate character clashes with external challenges.” But when you’re watching the show, you don’t feel the fancy interpretation; you feel like you’re eavesdropping on some really juicy gossip.

It’s not till the latter half of the play that the girls finally huddle up. By the time they’re chanting, “We. Are. The. Wolves. Wearethewolves!” you’re no longer eavesdropping; you’re right there, in the huddle, on the team.

The Wolves February 1-18, days & times vary, $15-$25, 1025 S. 1st St. #110, cockroachtheatre.com.

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