Comic drama at Marin Theatre Company shows how girl athletes deal with life
Adolescent girls, a one-act play at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley suggests, may cling to each other in packs like unruly but maturing animals.
For community. For learning. For support.
In “The Wolves,” nine uniformed 16- and 17-year-old members of an indoor Middle America soccer team repeatedly warm up for a game — and for life.
Most of their conversations in this unique, often comic coming-of-age drama feel incredibly real (though I can’t know for sure since I was never a teenage girl) — despite some of the exchanges intentionally vaporizing.
Deeper meanings are touched on in brief chatter about genocide, torture and abortion, but the clamor also deals with more lightweight subjects such as tampons, the words “bitch” and “retarded,” and pop culture allusions to Disney World and Game of Thrones.
Some of the rambling onstage verbiage is not discernible because the girls purposefully talk over each other (as, I’m told, girls in groups do).
In high-pitched voices.
But problems also arise because the young actors are sometimes facing the back of the stage instead of the audience.
Toward the end of the play, the 90-minute MTC production drifts into darker places when the athletes must cope with a college scout’s visit, a possible forfeit, and, much more meaningfully, injury and death.
Precisely like real life.
Morgan Green does a remarkable job as director, ensuring that each girl becomes a character unto herself — while simultaneously making sure the rainbow ensemble resembles a team drilled to choreographed near-perfection.
Green, who’d played soccer at Redwood High and performed at Marin Theatre Company as an evil stepsister in a youth production of “Into the Woods,” also masterfully utilizes the entire stage, now laid out with ultra-green artificial turf as if it were a practice field.
It feels enormous.
And Green clearly was assisted in his quest for authenticity by Tam High soccer coach Shane Kennedy, who spent hours teaching the cast the correct way to kick a ball.
Authenticity, in fact, is a prime goal that’s met throughout — particularly when insensitive comments are blurted out and guiltily regretted.
Characters are significantly diverse yet somehow not clichéd.
They include an Armenian mistaken for and dissed as a Mexican, a religious youthful do-gooder, a world-traveler who rapidly becomes a first-rate player despite being a novice, a sexually active girl with a collegiate boyfriend, a team leader who’s obviously uncomfortable when a peer challenges her, and an uptight, vomit-prone goalie.
Reno-born playwright Sarah DeLappe does make it a little difficult to keep the characters straight because rather than naming them, she refers to them by jersey numbers.
Still, “The Wolves,” which premiered off-Broadway, was a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama even though it was DeLappe’s first produced work.
The writer, an ex-soccer player herself, explains in a publicity video that her work’s like a war movie in which instead of nine young men going into battle, nine young women prepare for battle on the soccer field.
She calls the characters “an amalgamation of all the young women I’ve ever known and loved and hate,” and intimates that she’s giving audiences a chance to be a fly on the wall in a girls’ locker room.
In that regard, she succeeds.
Totally, if I may use the girls’ vernacular.
“The Wolves” plays at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, through April 8. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; matinees, 1 p.m. Thursdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: $10 to $60. Information: (415) 388-5208 or marintheatre.org.