My high school buddies often wondered what girls talked about when guys weren’t around. We assumed with pardonable egotism that it must be us, but we knew we’d never get the scoop: They wouldn’t tell us, and there would be no reasonable way to eavesdrop.
But after seeing “The Wolves” at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, I believe I know: World affairs, female body parts, anxieties, the male sex (far less than we’d hoped), loneliness, athletic dreams shattered or attained, grownups’ occasional usefulness but more frequent hindrances, academic responsibilities, the eternal strangeness of life and death. “Weird” becomes the most-used adjective among these nine girls, as the world throws more challenges at them than my classmates ever faced.
Writer Sarah DeLappe sets this drama about a high school soccer team as a jumble of conversations that overlap and swing from topic to topic. We hit the ground running at a practice and race to keep up, and we need the full hour and a half to really know where we are. Some things get hinted at but not resolved: Was an abortion really the explanation for one player’s absence? Is another girl healthily slender or anorexic?
The story revolves very loosely around the arrival of a new player, who has amazing skills for someone who seems never to have played organized soccer. (Or so her teammates infer.) DeLappe tries too hard to make her mysterious and foreign — she lives in a yurt in suburban America — and the newbie’s clueless attempts to fit into the group don’t match what we learn about her later. Once she’s integrated, though, DeLappe doesn’t miss a step.
Director Sarah Provencal, still young enough herself to remember high school days clearly, keeps the action racing forward and moving all over the Wolves’ practice pitch, a turf-covered set designed and lit by Evan Kinsley. It runs the length of the theater; the audience sits on both sides, like soccer parents watching their children.
So clearly do we come to identify with these characters, embodied with convincing strength and frailty by the young cast, that the sudden appearance of an adult soccer mom near the end of the narrative comes as an intrusion. DeLappe is telling the young players that, 20 years on, the vagaries of life will rock them just as hard; she’s telling us that, however we want to guard or guide the next generation, we cannot be sure we will.
DeLappe placed a Gertrude Stein quote on the first page of the script: “We are always the same age inside.” If that were literally true, Earth would be a Hell where we continually fell prey to childhood fears and foolishness. But if you take it to mean that youthful behavior can enlighten us about both young people’s lives and adults’, “The Wolves” provides touching proof.
When: Through Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Queens University of Charlotte’s Hadley Theater, 2132 Radcliffe Road.
Running time: 90 minutes without intermission.
Tickets: $28-43 ($14-15 students, teachers, military, Queens community).
Details: 704-342-2251 or atcharlotte.org.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.
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