I’m not sure if there is a term for young wolves on the cusp of adult wolfdom (wolf adulting?) but there should be. Because these girl wolves are brilliant and thoughtful and complicated. They are learning hard truths and how to deal with complexity and ambiguity.
‘The Wolves’ … is, quite simply, brilliant.
“The Wolves,” directed by Marti Lyons and presented in Studio’s fourth-floor black box space, is, quite simply, brilliant. The play, by Sarah DeLappe, is brilliant (and was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and the Yale Drama Series Prize; it received the American Playwriting Foundation’s inaugural Relentless Award). The actors, all women, are brilliant. The staging, simple and compact, is brilliant. This is a play that at the end, you hear audience members saying things along the lines of, “But, but, what happens next?” You are transported into their world and it’s a wrench to come back and not know what happens next in their lives.
“The Wolves” is a team of young women aged 16-17 who play in an indoor soccer league in the winter months, traveling team soccer at other times, and regular soccer through school. They live in an upscale suburb and take soccer very seriously. Eight of the nine players go to the same school; the ninth is a newcomer to the group.
It’s a story of girls on the cusp of adulthood, who with the exception of #00, the goalie, talk a lot, and talk about everything. They start out arguing about how to pronounce Khmer Rouge, but even their silly arguments are about something deeper—change vs. the familiar and the known. As you eavesdrop on their conversations throughout the play, moments burst forth, sometimes frightening them in their adult intensity, so that they stop and pull back. But nothing is wasted—those moments come up again and get a different reaction.
These girls, with their seemingly idyllic well-to-do suburban lives, could just be stock characters—the team captain, the jock, the blond ditz, the new girl, the sassy one, etc., but they have depth and corners and roundness and are dealing with many more expectations and choices than one thinks. They are wrestling with big choices and finding themselves, and finding their place in the pack. They are becoming more comfortable with ambiguity, and much more heartbreakingly aware that sometimes none of our choices are what we want, but decisions have to be made. Bad things happen and even as they lose pieces of their innocence, they are creating strength and learning to forgive each other and themselves—because they have the pack/team to hold them up when they need it.
The talented cast includes: Lindsley Howard as #11, Chrissy Rose as #25, Sara Turner as #13, Merissa Czyz as #2, Shanta Parasuraman as #8, Jane Bernhard as #46, Maryn Shaw as #14, Katie Kleiger as #7, Gabby Beans as #00, and Anne Bowles as the Soccer Mom. Director Marti Lyons has crafted this cast into an ensemble that feels amazingly true—to the point where you forget you’re watching a play. The compact set is designed by Debra Booth and the audience sits on rows on two sides as if in a stadium. Sarah Cubbage has designed costumes that feel completely natural and just what a teenage girl would wear. Special kudos should be given to the movement director, Stephanie Paul. In this longer than it’s wide space between the seats, she has choreographed the action so deftly that watching the girls stretch before each game and run drills as they talk and engage becomes mesmerizing. It feels like an actual soccer team has been transplanted onto Studio’s fourth floor.
“The Wolves” is part of the 2018 Women’s Voices Theater Festival in D.C., and it is delightful and amazing to see a play that shows the interior, coming-of-age lives of girls. It is even more refreshing that these girls are concerned about so many things, and in so many different ways, and that we are allowed to see them grope their way to a more mature understanding of the world and themselves in that world. Girls’ experiences and voices matter and this play shows that on so many levels.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Show Information: ‘The Wolves’ plays from January 19 – February 18, 2018, at Studio Theatre, Washington, DC. For more information, click here.