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Miami University’s “The Wolves”: Girls, Interrupted

Review by Blair Godshall of “The Wolves”

Unfortunately, due to current circumstances regarding COVID-19, all performances of Miami University’s “The Wolves” have been postponed. It’s a shame given how well this production was executed.

“The Wolves” follows a team of high school females competing in an indoor soccer league. The season is grueling, and athletes play multiple games in a single weekend. Playwright Sarah DeLappe has described the work as “a war movie – but about girls’ soccer.” As the girls enter the spring of their junior year, their dedication grows stronger as they consider — and are considered for — a college career. The pressure will be familiar to audience members familiar with the challenges of being a high school student questioning what comes after graduation.

DeLappe, who was named a Pulitzer finalist for this work, gives all of these young characters a strong, distinct voice. The girls’ conversations are filled with everyday fodder: they discuss pads versus tampons, gossip about other teammates, and joke about their possibly hung-over coach. They also grapple with more serious questions and topics on death, disease, abortion and morality. The characters lack adult sophistication, but their energy and curiosity are boundless. The dialogue creates a quick, captivating momentum as the girls continually lurch toward the next topic.

The players remain nameless, instead referring to each other by number, underscoring the vital role of the sport in their lives. A true ensemble piece, no one character’s arc dominates, though #46 (Freshman Grace “Crispy” Marcontell) — the new girl with seemingly no experience— seems the most obvious protagonist. She often blurts out clumsy or inappropriate comments when conversing with the team. It seems that #46’s dialogue is used (by the dramatist) for the sake of comic relief; an ineffective overture to connect with the other girls. There were many fine performances: freshman Cassie Duker evokes #7’s frustration and resilience when an injury brings her season to a premature end, jeopardizing her chance to play in college. Senior Marjorie Tremble’s #25 is also striking as the team’s captain, conflicted between leadership and friendship when interacting with her teammates. The goalie (Sophomore Laura Smith) is a mysterious, silent girl who appears to be socially inept and paralyzingly shy. We learn she struggles with severe performance anxiety. Loudmouth, no-filter #13 (Junior Elizabeth Bode) plays her character with an energy that is obnoxious but not annoying. #13 says exactly what she thinks and lets everyone know it.

The unifying moment comes at the end of the play. The girls are recovering after a tragedy, only to have the mood disrupted by the entrance of a distraught soccer mom (played in a uniquely and delicately beautiful way by Professor/Chair of Theatre at Miami University, Julia Guichard), whose frantic energy disrupts what should be a tender moment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, though, so kudos to the cast for this cathartic moment.

There is only one set, the in-door soccer field with the green artificial turf, but scenic designer Lauren Lienhart conveys where the team is without adding too much. Melanie Mortimer’s costume design dresses the entire cast in purple team jerseys and appropriate soccer attire where they can move and move, they do. The team engages in dialogue and physical exercises challenging their stamina.

Director Susan Felder breathes additional life into this already well written, female fantastic play. Women are complex and should be given complex story lines. Men are seen to struggle and succeed in plays and films but finding stories that center on young females (who aren’t boy crazy) are few and far between. The Wolves serves up plenty of revelations, as DeLappe celebrates the drives, struggles, and successes of her characters. This play gives me hope for the current and future generations of female creatives.

See the link below for information about the postponed performances: https://behindthecurtaincincy.com/2020/03/12/all-remaining-performances-of-the-wolves-cancelled-at-miami-university/