By Sanai Rashid
Beacon’s intensive theatre arts extracurricular, B’Dat’s, production of The Wolves sure scored a goal in my referee book after watching it on opening night. The Wolves, a play by Sarah DeLappe, follows the ups and downs of a high school indoor soccer team and the drastically different personalities of its members.
The set was different and made the audience feel close and in touch with the actors, as if the audience was hovering above them. Dozens of seats surrounded a small soccer field on the stage on each side with only a net separating onlookers. In fact, it must have been quite unnerving for performers to have the audience so close up with no room to wander off at all and yet these girls didn’t show an ounce of fear.
The play started off with the 8 members of The Wolves soccer team stretching before practice and babbling about the Khmer Rouge, a radical movement in Cambodia that led to mass genocide and depletion of many ethnic groups. The audience learns The Wolves is a decent team and do everything for themselves since they are getting closer to scouting year and their drunk coach is no help. The leading team members are unique and spunky individuals. Number 25, played by Hadassa Garfein, is the captain of the team. She is always ready to whip into chatter and catch slacking teammates such as rebellious Number 7, played by Ruby Kim. Player Number 2, performed by Lulia Aklilu, is the innocent, baby type of the group whose mom reprimands her for not wearing headgear for deathly fear that she will get a concussion. Number 11, played by Lila Marooney, is the co-captain of sorts, Number 13, Louise Wandesforde, is fiery and head-strong, and Number 14, played by Chiara Aiello, is the minion of her best friend Number 7. Number 0, played by Uma Rao-Labrecque, is shy and vomits when anxious, and Number 8 , Grace Albano, is the ditzy friend. Finally there is Number 46 played by Adelaide Lobenthal. She is the new girl.
All of these different characteristics of the girls who are all the same age and on the same soccer team represents how complex the teenage girl world is. No matter where you live no two adolescent girls are the same, they are different and unique in their own ways. All of these starkly different team members still find a way to come together and kick some soccer butt, which is pretty awesome.
In a notable shift in the play, new girl Number 46 waltzes in and immediately the 8 other soccer girls who have been playing together since childhood shut her out. The pettiness of their exclusion: talking behind her back as she changes and purposefully locking her out of the locker room is characteristic of classic teenage girl behavior. It seems that there is always competition toward and belittling of Number 46; a girl they should embrace as their own is instead brutally made fun of until she later reveals that she has played soccer all over the world and turns out to be an excellent player.
The striking similarity of the script was an appealing feature of the play. It felt as though I could walk into any soccer practice in America and hear conversations similar to the ones within The Wolves. The characters talked about tampons, dissed their competing teams and did all of this while doing actual soccer exercises on stage! How one could do “burpees” and laps and still recite their lines perfectly boggles me! There was never a moment where the girls simply sat down and talked, but that’s what made the play different. Everything kept moving just like a soccer game. And like referees, audience members had to be on watch, ready for whatever happened next.
At the end of one particular practice the girls take silly selfies with orange slices in their mouths and we see that Number 2 sticks around and eats the rest of the oranges. A girl hiding her eating disorder for fear that even girls you’ve known for years could reject you is such an unfortunately real dilemma.
What was so powerful about the play was that these girls were battling other teams on the soccer field but also inner demons within their own personal lives. The girls are divided and balancing friendship with competition is a tricky thing. At one of the games some of the girls get scouted by a college coach while the others have to just watch. The jealousy of seeing girls you worked with rise higher than you can hurt and the play brilliantly captured this. “What did I do wrong?” are the girls’ first thought and that soon turns to resentment.
Moving on, Number 7 is rumored to have had an abortion and after walking in on a conversation about her she completely snaps. She yells, “IT WAS ONLY PLAN B!” and dashes off. It’s like no one feels safe around each other and Number 7 finding out that her so called best friend, Number 14, whom she worshiped,told others about this hurt. No matter how strong-willed Number 7 may seem, she has her insecurities like all of her other teammates. To make matters worse in later scenes Number 7 goes off on Number 14 for not engaging in sexual activity with Number 7’s boyfriends’ friend during her birthday getaway.
In what seems to be in Act 2, one of the girls is missing and we later find out dead. And guess who it was, Number 14. In an early morning jog, she was run over by a car. The weight of this loss seeps into the team. Number 7 who has been “benched” since she tore her ACL during a game, responds to her grief by criticizing her now dead best friend for running so early in the morning and how stupid that was. The team seems becomes discouraged. Later, as they stretch to prepare for their last game of the season the last character, “Soccer Mom,” interrupts. “Soccer Mom” is supposed to represent the dead girl’s mother and we hear her babble about her daughter, how she wishes the team well and later brings the remaining team members a bag of orange slices. Soccer Mom almost seems unreal or ethereal in a sense, the grief of losing he daughter spirals out of her and she talks so fast you can’t process her words.
The play ends with the girls huddled in a circle shouting a motivating team chant until they finally cry together in sadness and anger, in relief and happiness. Female empowerment and navigating the world at such a young age shines through my memory of the play and The Wolves script itself. The Wolves was a great choice by B’Dat and I can’t wait to see more school productions like these.