Regional Reviews: Boston
Also see Josh's review of A Doll's House, Part 2
"We are the Wolves!" the girls chant before each match, their voices increasing in volume and determination. The first time we hear it, it's a proud rally cry. But after everything that happens during the 90-minute play, the chant becomes something else: a heartbreaking, fiercely defiant mantra to live by. These girls are realizing their power, on and off the field. One of the joys of The Wolves is watching them mature over a few short weeks. Before their first game, they are chatty and highly opinionated, their thoughts meandering like only teenagers' could, from Twitter to their periods to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Their minds move a mile a minute, flipping between serious and absurd on a dime. We have the brash know-it-alls, the cool kids, the girls who try hard to be liked, the ones who stay quietly focused. As their conversations overlap in a counterpoint of sound at times lyrical and at others cacophonous, the team executes the day's warm-up stretches and squats with astonishing precision.
DeLappe clearly understands the humor and anxiety of being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. Better yet, she trusts the audience to get to know these girls' distinct personalities and inner lives with clues carefully dropped throughout the performance: their apprehensions, their love lives, their hopes for the future. Player #2 (Chelsea Evered) is cheerfully knitting scarves to support Mexican children detained in cages, while the team's all-star striker #7 (Olivia Z. Cote, perfectly bad-ass) shuts down everyone's political ineptness: "You guys are a bunch of fascists!" Every time a match is about to begin, the perfectionist goalie (Simone Black, who does a lot by saying little) rushes off to throw up. And there's the new girl, #46 (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan, charmingly out there), a mystery to the other girls. She calls the sport "football" and lives in a "yogurt"one girl's malaprop way of describing a yurt.
I can't single out every cast member, but they are all key to the play's impact, bursting with untamed energy and spontaneity. It's easy to forget we're watching actors and not just regular teenagers. And they're up to the physical challenge of a play that keeps them in constant motion. In one scene, #25 (Valerie Terranova), the team captain, leads the players running circles around the theater, adding kicks and grapevines without breaking a sweat. One of the older girls, she nicely balances her need to be part of the team with the authority required to be captain. Like all of the girls, she's learning how to grow up. This indoor soccer field starts out as a private space, these girls' own isolated world where they can be uninhibited without adults hovering around to listen. But as the season goes on, they have to deal with disagreements, losses, andat the endsome devastating news that will change them forever.
The Wolves is in the excellent hands of director A. Nora Long, who leads an all-female team of designers and stage managers at Lyric Stage. Long and all of her collaborators deserve credit for making these characters feel so personal. There's a clear affection in the writing and performance for these young women, for making sure their distinct voices are lifted up. The only unusual creative choice is the net that surrounds the stage. This does allow the actors more freedom to pass and throw the ball, but I'd love to see the show again without the physical barrier separating us from the action.
These young women will soon graduate from adolescence and join us in the real world. Everything is changing; everyone's working out their own identity. Over the course of DeLappe's uncanny play, these girls learn how to bring their complicated individual selves together to form something formidable, even unstoppable.
The Wolves, through February 3, 2019, at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston MA. Tickets can be purchased at lyricstage.com, by phone at 617-585-5678, or in person at the Lyric Stage box office.