OSU Theatre presents portrait of the complexity of teenage girls

Mehek Sheikh was finally leaving all of her teenage troubles in the past.

Then she joined the cast of Ohio State University Theatre's “The Wolves,” Sarah DeLappe's 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist play, which chronicles the conversations and more of nine teenage girls on a soccer team. Told in a series of warm-up sequences before a season's worth of games, “The Wolves”offers more than thinly rendered archetypes, instead evoking actual young women talking everything from boys to bodies to Harry Potter.

“It brought [cast members] back into those feelings of unease and discomfort, of being mentally and physically uncomfortable in your own skin,” Sheikh said.

Although Sheikh stopped playing soccer at a young age, the way DeLappe portrays young women rings true in her experience.

“Young women are easily stereotyped. I hadn't seen much media that portrays young women as human beings, with a depth and richness and complexity,” Sheikh said. “These characters share everything from the horrific to the ultra-personal to the mundane.”

“[The play is] asking the audience to think about the way young women speak as not a stereotype but in terms of the complexity of girlhood,” said Elizabeth Wellman, who directs “The Wolves” at OSU. “Over the course of a season, they run the gamut emotionally.”

Wellman said that competitive sports is merely the lens DeLappe uses, but that the particular vantage point is instructive when it comes to topics such as women and aggressiveness and the scarcity of opportunities for women in sports. While we do learn, in conversation, the names of two of the girls, the script identifies them only by their numbers.

“This is a foundational part of our identity, that how other people see us is sometimes how we see ourselves,” Sheikh said.

That we do learn two of their names is indicative of the narrative and dialogue DeLappe uses, in which the audience gets no exposition, but rather only knows about these characters what can be gleaned from hearing their pre-game conversations. Some things are learned about events of the days between games, or that involve characters who don't appear on stage, but Wellman said the technique is purposeful.

“You get a slice, or a peek in at their lives. The focus is on the dialogue, which feels like a sort of music. The overlapping conversation is the way the people speak in real life. To me, it feels joyous,” Wellman said.