Anxious. Electrified. Rattled. Engaged. Scared. Exhilarated. These were the first half-dozen emotions pulsating from my mind as I finished taking in
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s 90-minute production of Sarah Delappe’s Pulitzer Prize Finalist, “The Wolves,” directed by The Ruth Dennis Sawyer/Mary Taft Mahler Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers.
Notice the descriptors. These could be the same words used for a troop of soldiers desperately trying to bond for survival. In both cases, the fight is an inevitable part of the process so that victory can be achieved.
For these teenage girls, victory is not just survival, but growth — mental and physical. Whether you’re Team Captain (#25), played so strongly by Katie Mitchell, affirming your own sexuality to the world, or you’re the lone Goalie (#00), punishing yourself to a grueling solo practice (your behavioral modification to combat episodes of hurling which precede each game), and played so authentically by Maliyah Gramata-Jones, you are on a journey. And it’s a journey with the pack serving as some sort of ground zero glue holding you together: what you need, love or fear, depending on the moment.
The strength of the pack is defined at the onset of the production. Bright lights showcase the set: a fitting masterpiece created by Ensemble’s Resident Set & Lighting Designer Brian C. Mehring. It’s a soccer field nestled in the cozy yet box-like setting of the historic OTR theater. Its direct, borderline starkness communicates boundaries and yet offers hope and possibilities to release your fears and emotions. This field forces you to stretch and grow as a human being.
In addition to the set, the pack is equally defined by the dialogue that takes place. Layered streams of consciousness and often overlapped threads of conversations tell the story. The storyline’s slice of life has no set beginning nor end — just a window into an intimate set of relationships of these strong, forming women.
I’m drawn to these female powerhouses — whether it’s their puberty-nuanced conversations of tampons versus pads or their very adult-like observations on Cambodian genocide, discussed at the very same time. Like so many strong women, they’re masterful, adept multitaskers — thoughtful, reflective, sometimes empathetic and ever-evolving in their mindsets.
At the end of the show, I walk off my own angst from having experienced so many emotions in such a compressed couple of hours. I’m reminded how tough the journey of growing up is. At the same time, I’m utterly relieved, realizing I won’t have to relive any single moment of that intense yet important metamorphosis we all face.
“The Wolves” runs through June 29. By purchasing an ArtsWave Pass that will provide you hundreds of experiences to arts and more while supporting the arts community, you can receive 50% off your admission.
Kathy DeBrosse is Vice President, Marketing & Engagement at ArtsWave.