I’ve been enjoying college theater lately – they tend to take unlikely risks (this could be for a number of reasons – the directors are brought in from elsewhere, they have money that community theaters may not, or the actors, typically being younger, don’t have the built-in fear we seem to accumulate as we age.) When a friend recommended The Wolves to me – a play I wasn’t familiar with, but one with a fascinating premise – I jumped at the chance to see it; I’m not sure how often this one will come around, and I’m so glad I did.
The Wolves are an indoor soccer league – mostly girls about a year out from graduating high school who’ve been playing soccer together since they were small. A new girl joins the team, causing some strife (not only is she new – a terrible thing to be at that age – but she’s “weird” because she lives in a yurt with her mother and doesn’t seem to have the same standards of hygiene as the other girls do … and she’s very, very good at soccer, causing jealousy.) Mostly, though, this is a show about growing up, and more specifically, growing up female – the pitfalls, the highs, the lows, the drama, the pain, the joy.
And the entire thing is done on Astroturf, as we watch on benches like spectators, and the girls are either stretching or playing soccer as a warm-up for games the entire time.
It’s hard enough to learn your lines. It’s hard enough to learn your lines and your blocking. This is beyond that – this is learning your lines and your blocking and doing soccer warmups – with actual soccer balls (and I’m not a sports person, but they seemed really good.) We often say a cast is a team – this one really is.
Director Shayok Misha Chowdhury has this entire production perfectly coordinated – the acting, the soccer (with the help of soccer coach Lucy Putnam), the blocking (almost a ballet at times, it’s so precise.) And these girls are fantastic. We don’t learn their names – they go by their soccer numbers throughout – but you learn to refer to them by those numbers because each girl is so real. Maia Czaikowski, as #46, the new girl to the team, is heartbreaking in her loneliness and dogged attempt to become one with the girls; Maya Jasinska, as #2, is fresh-faced and sweet as a naïve home-schooled girl; Isabel Ouweleen, #13, has the rage of a typical teen girl but plays it anyway but typical, with deft layers; and Caroline Fairweather, #25, has the thankless task of holding them all together as their student coach, cheerleader, and all-around punching bag, and her self-assurance and strength is impressive to watch.
This is a beautifully written (a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year) play, and no one will walk away from it unmoved; I applaud the work done here, and the risks taken. I will most definitely be back to see what else the theater department has planned.
“The Wolves;” Arts at Williams; Williams College, 1000 Main St., Williamstown, Mass.; through November 18; $3; Run time: 90 minutes; 62center.williams.edu