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“The Wolves” at Marin Theatre Company

“The Wolves” at Marin Theatre Company

Carol Benet

If you are over the age of a senior in high school you may have trouble understanding the chatter that takes place on stage at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, California, where the West Coast Premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” just opened.

A play about a girls’ soccer team, they are constantly in indoor practice and the comments by the nine members of the team, ranging from discussions of the Khmer Rouge and the possible sentence of its leader who killed “hundreds of thousands” of people from his own country to “kids in cages” in Mexico and about their own lives are as lively as their exercises, especially when balls go flying.  But then there is the problem of understanding them and the large stage and high ceiling don’t make it any better.

Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” has won many awards and was a finalist for a Pulitzer-Prize.  It has played many times including at the Lincoln Center Theater. Directed by former Marin native Morgen Green, who played soccer at Redwood High School, the stage is filled with activity from floor stretches to drills that bring the team darting back and forth in almost military precision worthy of the play about the Scottish “Black Watch” performed at the  Armory in San Francisco in 2013.  These scenes on the stage in Marin are breathtaking and the actresses spent many hours performing for these feats.

The plot is a bit like a T.V. drama, one that will certainly bring in a younger audience to the often staid art of the theater with its repeats of standard plays, mostly about adults.  The Marin Theatre has come up with a clever community involvement aspect by having a complete team of nine actresses from Marin high schools who serve as understudies as well asaperform a complete production on April 8, 2018.  Also they present pre and after show discussions, cast members meet the audience, and guest lectures. On March March 18, a panel of experts discussed “We Are the Wolves/ Women in Arts and Sports” that was free to the public.  The panel included the director Morgan Green and Lauren Gunderson, MTC resident playwright and most produced playwright in American (2017-18).

The play outlines the dramatic events happening to a team of seniors in high school  facing challenges including a death of one of its members, a previous pregnancy and abortion of another one of them, the new member who lives in a yurt and is home-schooled. One girl is from a super-religious family, another one’s mother is a therapist and one is part Armenian and so on. Some of the girls hate each other; one is  foul-mouthed.  A scout (off stage) comes from Santa Barbara and picks only a few to interview engendering jealousy in the others. and the goalie is constantly running off stage to vomit because she is so nervous before games.

All 9 of the team members, not named but carry a number on their shirt, except for the goalie and a soccer Mom (Liz Sklar) are fine actresses.  Especially talented are #25 Sango Tajima as the team captain and the whiny #8, Carolyn faye Kramer.

All these scenes with the stories of their lives, attitudes and a little-bit about world affairs as seen through a high school prism are battered around just like the soccer balls.  They are a bit trite but realistic for this age group.  If this were a book would it be under the YA (Young Author) category and meant to appeal to this age group.

But the magic of the play is the quick and changing action taking place all in one room.  Their warm ups with almost ballet type stretches and and other incredible exercises both with and without the balls are performed with grace and expertise thanks to help from the soccer coach at Tamalpais High School Shane Kennedy.  “The Wolves” plays at the Marin Theatre Company through April 8, 2018.  marintheater.org or (415) 388-5208.

Carol Benet received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is a critic of theater, opera, ballet and fine art and teaches literature seminars.  carolbenetcritic@comcast.net