I always grimace at the phrase “coming-of-age.” In my mind, the words are subtly tainted by their overuse. Yet I cannot think of any other words that are more befitting of The Wolves, a play that so painfully and accurately articulates the story of a girls’ indoor soccer team caught in the God-awful yet exhilarating shift between youth and adulthood. Too old to be innocent, yet too young to be seasoned with the shrewdness of age, the girls live and breathe the reality of high-schoolers navigating the field that is friendship, rivalry, sexuality, and tragedy.
As the play begins, the intimate setting of the turf theater places the audience on the field, as if watching from the literal sidelines. Conversation erupts and re-centers itself uneasily, balancing between remarks on the Cambodian genocide and the convenience of tampons. Distinct personalities emerge from the incisive remarks of the team members, each tellingly referred to only by their numbers. From their uncertainty in the face of possible recruitments, injuries, and adversity, it is clear that the contours of the characters' futures are not yet crystallized, even in their own minds.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the cacophony of side-conversations, a more singular melody develops as the girls work to include their newest addition, #46. Her attempts to fit into the group of already established friendships are initially met with chill distaste, a narrative that speaks to everyone in the audience. The creaky machinery of her stunted dialogue and inability to adapt eventually begin to shift as she becomes the star striker of the team. Meanwhile, fearless captain #25 leads the team through conflict by means of continuous stretches and pep talks. When the spontaneous chatter and constant sense of movement through the physical exercise inevitably stops, it happens abruptly. The silences in the dialogue are sharp and highlight only the most painful moments the girls face individually and as a team. And the silence of the girls is all the more deafening in the play’s shattering final monologue, as the only adult character reminds us that grownups are no better at coping in the wake of calamity than adolescents.
What I appreciated most was the painful reality of the dialogue, which was articulated more clearly by the expressions of raw emotions I, too, so often experience. And while their conversation was discursive, the girls were unhesitating and relentless in their desire to succeed as a team, which allowed their newfound maturity and bonds of friendship to grow deeper. On top of it all, I watched the performance with an expression somewhere between a smile and a knowing smirk, reminiscing on how #46, Rachel Thomas (COL ’22), was my own soccer teammate six years ago. From this knowledge, I knew her performance held the gravity of reality. I sensed the same weight in the words of the other actors, as well, as each member of the stellar cast was fresh with the experiences of their own youth. As actors, they were unwilling to paint over the chaotic mechanics of youth, no matter how hideous. They felt real, the dialogue felt true, and The Wolves scored.
Photo Credit: Nomadic Theatre