Review: Sarah De Lappe’s ‘The Wolves,’ a West Coast Premiere at Marin Theatre Company (****1/2)

by Charles Kruger

“The Wolves” (clockwise from far left): Carolyn Faye Kramer, Isabel Langen, Portland Thomas, Sango Tajima, Neiry Rojo, Nicole Apostol Bruno,and Emma Roos. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Any teenager will tell you their lives are richer emotionally, intellectually, creatively, and physically than many adults realize.

Any honest adult will admit that, even with our best efforts, we sometimes unfairly treat teenagers as irritating, shallow, foolish and unworthy of our serious and respectful attention.

If the teenagers in question are young women, the difficulty is compounded, to say the least.

With the headlines full of the teenage-led “March For Our Lives” movement, a play that reminds us of the depth of feeling, commitment and passion of every sort to be found amongst teenage girls could not be more timely.

Playwright Sarah De Lappe’s amazingly proficient debut, which had its world premiere in 2016, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is the winner of multiple awards including the distinguished Sky Cooper Prize sponsored by Marin Theatre Company, which led to the current production.

The Wolves are a high school women’s soccer team, and the play consists of a series of scenes set in pregame locker rooms as The Wolves prepare to compete. The nine girls who play on the team are unnamed (we know only their jersey numbers, if we pay close attention). In the opening, they speak so rapidly and in such affected teen slang, that the scene can only be described as cringe worthy, although quite funny. But can a theatre audience really be expected to spend 90 uninterrupted minutes in the company of these magpies?

You bet. It isn’t long before their conversation reveals hidden depths. Almost every subject teens might care about has been explored: relationships, pregnancy, abortion, sexuality, puberty, history (they have been studying the Vietnam War era and the Khmer Rouge), Disneyland, mental breakdowns, eating disorders, and even death. The young woman who, initially, appear to be merely a pack, become worthy individuals about whom we learn to care deeply.

While delivering what amounts to a group stream-of-consciousness, the company is so tight that at first The Wolves seem like a single character. And they do this while engaged in very strenuous physical activity, running repeated short sprints across the stage, stretching, performing calisthenics, dealing with injuries and periods and more.

By the end of the play, we will have developed an appreciation for their dedication, their stamina, their shared dreams, and their strikingly different individualities.

The Wolves experience a full season of wins and losses, triumph and tragedy, moments of clinging to childhood, and leaps of maturity.

The brilliantly successful ensemble cast working at white hot intensity,  as directed by Morgan Green, assures that we do, too.

 

“The Wolves” continues at Marin Theatre Company through April 8, 2018. For further information, click here.

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