october 2018 | Volume 172
Photo: Georgia Beaty, Danielle Klaudt, Kim Larson, Paige Louter, Jalen Saip, Shona Struthers, Amanda Sum, Montserrat Videla, and Ali Watson. Photo credit: Ron Reed.
I’m delighted to say that The Wolves is my third terrific show this week, after Sweeney Todd and Kill Me Now. I’ve been looking forward to seeing Sarah Delappe’s play about a teenage girls’ soccer team since finding it on the New York Times’ theatre critics’ list of the 25 best new American plays of the past 25 years.
It’s one of this season’s most produced plays on the regional theatre circuit, and the With a Spoon production (in association with Rumble Theatre) at Pacific Theatre doesn’t disappoint.
Director Jamie King and her ten actors—playing the 17-year-old high school girls on the team located somewhere in Middle America, plus one soccer mom—create an intermissionless 100 minutes of comedy, drama, athleticism and insight into the hearts and brains of a demographic that rarely gets treated with the seriousness this very smart script allows them.
Pacific Theatre’s tiny alley stage space has been stripped down to the bare walls with a carpet of green Astroturf laid on the floor to transform it into a soccer pitch. The nine girls stretch, run, run drills (with and without balls) and talk talk talk.
Only a couple are given names. We know most only by their jersey numbers. (Chantal Short designed the authentic, functional costumes.) But all are very clearly delineated by Delappe and the talented cast.
They talk about tampons and the Khmer Rouge, Mexican migrant kids imprisoned at the border and Disney World, the college scouts coming to their games, Abu Ghraib, old guys (“He’s like 45.” “So’s Jude Law.”), and the very few people they know who have died.
There’s not much plot as such but a few plot lines. One revolves around #46 (Paige Louter, who also co-produced the show), the strange, surprisingly skilled new girl who’s home schooled, lives in a yurt (a couple of the others call it a yogurt), and remains an awkward outsider.
Another follows friends #07 (Danielle Klaudt, the other co-producer) and #14 (Montserrat Videla), who have a falling out over a weekend with boys. #07, the team’s star striker, is angry, aggressive and foul-mouthed for reasons we partly get to understand. She often goes head to head with the serious, intense team captain, #25 (Shona Struthers).
The neurotic goalie, #00 (Kim Larson), has her own through-line. We’re told of her various academic and extracurricular talents but mostly see her nervously vomiting before each game. She has an extraordinary solo turn suffering an anxiety attack so intense it looks like it might be fatal. Larson’s performance there is amazing.
Rounding out the team are #02 (Anjela Magpantay), who volunteers with Amnesty and suffers from concussions; ingenuous, slightly airheaded, very funny #08 (Georgia Beaty), who provides much of the comedy; #11 (Jalen Saip), both of whose parents are shrinks; and #13 (Ali Watson), the team clown who makes a joke of everything.
Finally, we meet a grieving mother (Tanja Dixon-Warren), who deflects her grief in a powerful monologue about her daughter’s use of “like” and up-talk, followed by the Wolves’ team cheer that grows into a searing howl of pain and loss.
I could say something about every one of these excellent performances, but the real strength of the show is its seamless ensemble. As #25 says, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” That’s as true on the stage as on the pitch, and these Wolves are certainly winners.
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