Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
We meet the Wolves as they sit in a big circle, stretching before a game. (The action takes place in an indoor soccer facility, which scenic designer Kristen Robinson indicates by carpeting the entire Marin Theatre Company stage with green indoor/outdoor carpet and hanging large HID lighting fixtures.) While stretching, the girls' discussion is animated, almost manic, stretching over a range of topics, but ultimately settling on the atrocities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. At times the sound becomes cacophonous and often unintelligible, as the girls talk over each other, dyads and triads of conversation merging and diverging. It brings tremendous energy to the stage, but interferes with the forward motion of the story.
There's a lot going on in their young lives: sexual awakening, eating disorders, very real fears about the terrors of the wider world, a nostalgic longing for their pre-teen years, the intricacies of friendships and popularity, and the pressure to perform in order to score both goals and athletic scholarships. DeLappe's dialogue is marvelously naturalistic, even if much of it is lost in a haze of crosstalk. We never lose sight of the fact, with each "um" and "like," that these are teenagers still discovering themselves and their relationships with each other and the rest of the world. (Later in the run, MTC will present an alternate cast of young performers from local high schools, and I think it would be fascinating to see girls who are actually the age of their characters and closer to the pressures faced by the characters they play.)
But the story DeLappe constructs for her characterslike a promising attack from mid-field that mysteriously falls apart due to an errant pass or missed touchnever fully develops. The tragedy that has befallen the team in the last scene seems to come out of left field (to mix a sports metaphor), with little to no foreshadowing, and character arcs established early on remain unresolved.
What DeLappe has done exceptionally well, however, is to ensure that her charactersdespite their youth and vulnerabilitynever come across as weak, powerless, or anything less than fully engaged in both their current tasks and long term goals. Girl power, both emotional and physical, is on full display here. The physical aspect is thrilling to watch, especially in a scene in which the girls participate in a warm-up drill done in perfect unison.
Despite solid performances from the cast, brisk direction from Morgan Green, and a fascinating microcosm of teen athletics, the chaos of The Wolves fails to resolve in a goal. The passion is there, but the opportunity evaporates before the ball can even be struck toward the back of the net.
The Wolves, through April 8, 2018, at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley CA. Performances Tuesdays-Sundays at 7:30pm, with matinees Thursday, March 29 at 1:00pm, Saturday, March 24 and April 7, and Sunday March 25, and April 1 and 8 at 2:00pm. Tickets range from $22-$60, and are available at marintheatre.org, or by calling the box office at 415-388-5208.