Football (soccer) great Pelé may have called it the “beautiful game”, but as a metaphor for life and loss of innocence, in The Wolves it is much more complicated.
In Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, nine young women take to an indoor soccer field. As they warm up together, the drills are punctuated by the sometimes stereotypical banter of teen girls.
But DeLappe is too smart to waste her time in simply letting this ennead of adolescents talk of boys, their looks, or leave them to stare vacuously at their phones. Sure, all these things make an appearance in The Wolves, but there is much more at play on this Astroturf.
No bigger example of this deft balance between the banal and the profound comes in just the first few minutes of The Wolves, where a conversation about periods is overlapped by a discussion of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
As the play progresses through its quick 90-minutes, the subjects continue to run this delicate line. Rather than feeling as artificial as the grass on which they play though, DeLappe has managed to capture these conversations with credibility, and a great deal of humour.
And even as the tone shifts dramatically in the play’s second half, there is a recognition, the feeling of a shared connection in this cadre’s journey to adulthood. In the much bigger issues they are required to face in life, we come to realize that with a belief in the possible, things really do get better.
For all of its realness though, there are also moments where DeLappe and director Jamie King step us outside this convincing teen world. The biggest of these comes in the scene where the goalie comes face-to-face with her own demons, and in some of the lighting and sound design from Nicole Weismiller and Matthew MacDonald-Bain respectively. But while in this context these flourishes of theatricality diminish rather than enhance, they are short-lived.
Pulling it all together is a team in the truest form of the word, led by director King. Despite its relatively short run time, DeLappe has managed to give us nine distinct characters, providing each with an opportunity to be heard and seen. Made up of nearly all non-equity actors there is not a single weak link in a cast who not only bring authenticity to their performances, but make equally convincing soccer players.
The Wolves is a smart and satisfying work, and it is easy to see why it is in such demand. Packing a lot into its relatively small container, more importantly, it also packs a punch.
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. Directed by Jamie King. A Pacific Theatre guest production by With A Spoon Theatre in association with Rumble Theatre. On stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Ave, Vancouver) until November 10. Visit pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.