Connection, squabbling and the bond of friendship lies at the heart of "The Wolves," the latest play performed by the Brandeis Undergraduate Theater Collection, which opened Nov. 4. 

The piece, written by Sarah Delappe in 2016, tells a collective coming-of-age story about a girls soccer team. Kieran Whitney ’23 directed the UTC production over the course of one month and brought his vision to fruition through his eight cast members. 

"The Wolves" originally premiered at The Duke on 42nd Street in New York as an off-Broadway show and went on to earn Delappe recognition as a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. According to Delappe’s page on the Pulitzer website, "The Wolves" brings to life a story which “illuminates with the unmistakable ping of reality the way young selves are formed when innate character clashes with external challenges.”

On Nov. 6, the Justice attended the show, which opened with a warm-up sequence in which the teammates converse on a variety of topics on which they share a range of understandings. They ponder current events, ask cumbrous questions regarding each other’s families and the upcoming national soccer championships which they so yearn to take part in. The play relies heavily on fast-paced dialogue and keeping the audience drawn in to the synchronized movements of the soccer players as well as their witty, instantaneous communications. 

Throughout the play’s runtime, the girls make their way through uncomfortable topics with adolescent gusto. They exchange private and public information and tailor their words to match who is on and off the field. They discuss sex, a teammate’s supposed abortion, another’s storied global background, school projects and body image. A majority of conversation is maneuvered and watched over by the captain, #25, played by Ruth King ’24. 

The UTC production of "The Wolves" included a cast of eight undergraduate Brandeis students. Four of the actors are currently first-years: Elise Andelman, Emily Bial, Leila Haller and Maya Schultz. In the program provided at the showing, the showrunners wrote blurbs on each of the cast members’ feelings on joining the UTC for the production and their own connections to their character. On Haller, the program read, “Like her dicey and spicy character, #7, Leila is spirited and passionate (about acting, less so about soccer),” adding that she has been acting since the age of 10 and enjoys playing “cool” characters with some kick to them. 

Aside from the onstage performers, "The Wolves" enlisted the help of Kat Lawrence ’22 for producing and costuming, as well as Rafi Levi ’24 for stage managing. Jess Umanoff ’23 was assistant director under the oversight of Whitney. 

'The Wolves' marks Whitney’s directorial debut. In his section of the program, Whitney’s gratitude for his cast members and crew is made deeply evident, with his blurb stating, “Kieran would like to thank the team of "The Wolves" for their creativity and patience during a hectic process, and for making directing such a rewarding experience.” 

Prior to the show, Whitney offered a preface in which he spoke on his excitement and joy in bringing Delappe’s piece to Brandeis. He also acknowledged his privilege as a cis-gender gay man directing a show about girlhood and, as stated in the program, navigates “maturity, pain, and the place of femininity in a patriarchal society.” 

Whitney first fell for "The Wolves" when he saw it in a theater a few years ago, writing in his director’s note that he was moved by its “nuance and ensemble-driven nature.” He also noted his appreciation for how Delappe’s writing “slowly cues [the viewer] in by revealing her characters’ complexities in brief bits and pieces.” The UTC asked him to join the project as a director just a month prior to opening night, and Whitney feels deeply grateful for both the guidance of the UTC and the help of his cast and crew. 

"The Wolves"'s four showings took place in the Carl J. Shapiro Campus Center Theater and were open to the public. Though the showings mark Whitney’s first venture at theater directing, he has acted in many shows both inside and outside the Brandeis community. His recent credits include "In the Empty", the Laramie Project and Speech & Debate. 

When "The Wolves" premiered in 2016, it was met with critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Village Voice and Time Out NY. In the Voice review in Sept. 2016, Miriam Felton-Dansky wrote “The Wolves is thrilling: for its confidence and generosity — and for its feminism. DeLappe reframes the social metaphor of team sports, simply by staging these women’s collective stories without squeamishness or self-pity. She offers us ninety minutes in a smart, sympathetic, female world."

Next up for the Brandeis UTC and Department of Theater Arts’ fall 2021 roster of shows is "Firebringer" and "Alone Together", set to premier concurrently on Nov. 18. Following these two productions, the new, original musical "Our Day Will Come" will have its first showings on Dec. 2.