REVIEW: ‘The Wolves’ at The Warehouse

Nine Soccer-Playing Girls Take to the Field of Life

THE WOLVES photo by Wallace Krebs Photography

By Steve Wong
Drama Critic

As most any surviving parent would agree, teenage girls are tough, and the nine girls in The Wolves, the current production at The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, are sweet little monsters with tender hearts protected by vicious teeth and claws that come out to play, of all places, on the soccer field.

A 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Wolves is one of the most creative and daring pieces of live theatre to be seen in recent history. Like teenage girls can be, it is complex with contradictions, physical and mental, smart and ditzy, emotional, sexual, frustrating, beautiful, and, above all, confusing with the specifics but eventually insightful to what it means to be female. You can’t get bogged down with overlapping mini dramas that run amok, but keep your eye on the goal and these girls will emerge as winning individuals and as a team.

Clearing out the center of the theater for astro turf for the girls to kick butt on and creating a triade of bleachers for the spectators, The Warehouse Theatre has compiled a roster of young actors who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty when it comes to playing soccer and playing against one another in the game of life. Although the girls are always dressed out and numbered, which is extremely important to keep up with, we never actually get to see them play.

Mostly, we see them at soccer practice, pushing each other’s boundaries, inflicting and licking wounds. They have names, but it’s almost impossible to keep up with them, and it’s best to note the number on their shirts, which they are mostly referred to throughout the show. Yet, we do begin to identify them individually, such as the blond — No. 7 — with the bad attitude and a potty mouth. If she said, “fuck” once, she said it a couple dozens of times. If heard correctly, she even said the ultimate “C” word in the heat of the moment.

Whoa! Do teenage girls actually use such language? Do they actually tit slap each other? As the father of both a boy and a girl, I can attest they do. (Technically, boys actually sack tap.) But using four-letter words is hardly the worst thing these girls can do to each other. When you really want to draw some menstrual blood, gossip loudly about whether she had an abortion or used Plan B. Sorry, moms and dads, these things actually do happen.

For the record, here is the roster with numbers and real names…

#00… Maddie Tisdel (goalie)

#2… Christina Rose Yasi

#7… Abby Gilbert

#8… TeAnna Brown

#11… Courtney Sims

#13… Elexious “Lexie” West

#14… Akasha Nelson

#25… Jaimie Malphrus

#46… Jo Garcia-Reger

Soccer Mom… Miranda Barnett

Most of these young women are making their Warehouse debuts, but Tisdel, Yasi, and Barnett have played Warehouse before. Considering some of the intensity of this show, I would say the newbies are being thrown to the wolves and winning big time. Directing credit goes to Anne Kelly Tromsness, who has directed several Warehouse plays, such as Much Ado About Nothing, Boeing Boeing, and Stones In His Pockets.

But don’t let the girls’ banter and bravado be your only judge of their characters. In between the insults and antics, we hear sincere attempts at conversations about Cambodia’s genocide and the Khner Rouge, although some girls have a problem with the pronunciation. They have real concerns about school, their parents, getting sick, injuries, and getting soccer scholarships for college. And there are those rare moments when the team comes together to share the simple joy of eating orange slices and taking a goofy selfie with the peels covering their smiling teeth. Those orange slices will become a haunting reminder of innocence lost. One of the most interesting aspects of The Wolves is how each girls’ character and personal story are developed, some more than others.

With so many balls in play, it all comes to a terrible halt. Something happens to one of the players, something that injects a reality check into their lives and changes their perspective on life. This is best seen in No. 00, the goalie, who for the majority of the play is one of the most serious players on the team. She takes soccer very seriously — so seriously that she never joins in the tit for tat conversations but instead practices alone, harder than anyone else, and vomits as game time approaches. She does it all the time, and no one is especially concerned about her anxiety. But in the wake of tragedy, she is seen practicing alone and amping up her drills to an exhausted frenzy and collapse. It is probably the most intense scene of the play, but even better insight comes when the team meets for the first time since the tragedy, and she is uncharacteristically interacting with and talking to her teammates. Her perspective on life has been altered, and she might actually now like the sport for what it is — just a game.

The Wolves was written by Sarah DeLappe and premiered off-Broadway in 2016. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2017. It also received the American Playwriting Foundation’s inaugural Relentless Award in 2015, and it took a 2017 Obie Award for Ensemble work. DeLappe has been quoted to say: “I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings — as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people who weren’t just girlfriends or sex objects or manic pixie dream girls but who were athletes and daughters and students and scholars and people who were trying actively to figure out who they were in this changing world around them.”

I highly recommend experiencing The Wolves. It is not often that we get such intimate looks into the lives of teenage girls and better understanding of what it means to grow up female in this day and age. Their last huddle will make you shudder.
The Wolves continues through May 7 at The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., in Greenville. Visit warehousetheatre.com or call (864) 235-6948 for tickets.

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