Review presented by UMB Private Wealth Management
Glue. Robbery. Feathers. There are a number of things that make us stick together. In The Wolves, the third installment of the 45th season at the Unicorn Theatre, it’s soccer. Soccer and teenage rhetoric.
Directed by Heidi Van and written by Sarah DeLappe, The Wolves opens with its audience clustered at either side of a blank soccer field. Onto the indoor field run nine teenage fútbol athletes. They circle up, stretching, prepping, gelling into a well-oiled, undefeated machine. The girls talk themselves (and us) into a frenzy, demonstrating the outcomes of applying teenage brain to complicated topics.
About halfway through the intermission-less 90 minutes, it starts to become clear that this is an experiment in simultaneously revealing both the parts and the whole. Each is her own woman, but she is also a wolf. She has a life outside of the field, but she is herself, truly, when she’s on it.
The Wolves is funny, charming, and bright even while the girls work through sickness, loss, finding herself as an individual and finding herself in the pack. The soccer ball they kick between them is their emotions, their thoughts. It is not always so easily shared or received. Sometimes it’s a miss.
Names mean nothing. By the end, there’s only a couple we know for sure. Experience is everything. The rhythm of womanhood, the conflict of religion, the brick wall of the f-word, and the horror of documentaries. Just documentaries. All of them.
Charm isn’t enough. The very quality that makes Wolves magnetic and hard to turn away from, is the same quality that makes it as annoying as eavesdropping on a slumber party of mean girls as they rag on each other.
At times, they are more interesting when they are quiet. When we can just look at them, think about who they are, rather than responding at lightning speed to the shocking grandiloquence of filterlessness. Sometimes she’s shallow. Sometimes she’s soulful.
Each girl has her challenges, though they are not super clear. Sexy time with an expectant boyfriend here, possibly a deceased mother there. Is there an eating disorder? It’s just not clear. There isn’t any story, not the kind that grabs and pulls us in. No, this play is a spectator sport.
We get to watch. Drama is not in conflict, but in just being. The being and the movement. They are choreographed in one mission, but her personal identity propels or stifles her. Either takes a backseat to movement.
It’s not a leave-the-theater-saying, “oh, that was so good,” or “ick, save me” kind of play. It’s a leave the theater realizing the experiment is on us. Do we like any of these girls? Do we agree with her, identify with her? It says a lot depending on which.
We know teenage girls are not usually actually mean. They are just discovering themselves in a difficult world and in The Wolves the field is the sanctuary where she’s allowed to do it. The sport is where she’s distinguished. It is in the game that she knows she’s a part of more than just a pack. She’s a part of a team.
The Wolves plays now through December 30, at the Unicorn Theater Jerome Stage.
The Wolves at the Unicorn Theatre
Chioma Anyanwu, Un Joo Christopher, Emilie Leia Karas, Molliann McCulley, Lauren Moore, Hannah Iris Woosley, Hannah Elizabeth Freeman, Chelsea Kinser, Yetunde Felix-Ukwu, Carla Noack
Producing Artistic Director