Arts and EntertainmentFeaturedLet’s throw it to “The Wolves”

Spoilers ahead: An honest review of the latest mainstage play "The Wolves"
identicon Georgie RiggsFebruary 28, 201921711 min
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Photo by Matthew Claybrook

At risk of sounding like your great aunt who thinks “Hamilton” might just be a “bit too political for her,” I miss the days when the Trinity mainstage show was Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.” No political commentary, no “oh-so-relevant” connections to real-life movements, no straight-faced, serious drama. Just murder. And fun. Fun murder!

Last weekend, the Department of Theatre premiered its first mainstage play of 2019. “The Wolves” follows a soccer team made up of nine teenage girls, showing their conversations during weekly pre-game warm-ups. The acting, the sound, the lighting and the stage were all impeccably directed and designed. For a play with very little action outside of some light soccer warm-ups, the cast achieved a rare feat of keeping the audience interested for 90 minutes without intermission.

The cast members, all identified solely by the numbers on the backs of their jerseys, sustained a continuous forward motion by keeping the audience on their toes. They carried a consistent balance between dramatic themes and comedic dialogue. I was very impressed and moved by their performances, with highlights from senior Kate Jones-Waddell’s well-meaning but misunderstood know-it-all and senior Marin Sandoz’s smart but underhanded mean girl.

But despite the good production and acting, I was not a fan of the play itself. The play failed to transcend its premise of “teenage girls are people too!” I know this may sound like a fairly reductive summation of the play, but “The Wolves” was a fairly reductive summation of being a teenage girl.

The playwright Sarah DeLappe has commented on how her influence for the play came from watching war documentaries. Wartime sounds and lighting were deftly carried out, but the war theme meant that the dramatic themes of the play always superseded the comedy. Every 10 minutes of this play was capped by some form of “We live in a society”-style topic, from using a girl’s rumored abortion against her to making fun of breast cancer around a girl whose mom died from the disease. Teenage girls are repeatedly shown to be mean, misunderstood and melodramatic. All of these may be true observations, but there is a lack of humanity in this play’s refusal to allow its characters to exist without issue.

Worse, none of the major themes were looked at long enough for there to be any depth to the exploration, and none of them were carried on long enough to have any form of conclusion. Near the end of the play, one of the girls suffers a sexual assault in the week between practices. The assualt is not shown and the character stays silent for the majority of the scene afterwards. By the next practice, that girl has died from completely unrelated causes — a man running her over on an icy road. The sexual assault is never visited or addressed again. Another girl, shown almost with humor, suffers from severe anxiety that leads to her needing to vomit before every soccer game. After attending the dead girl’s funeral, the thought of death miraculously cures anxious girl of her mental illness. And who even knows what’s happening with that girl rubbing orange slices across her face in the darkness after one scene?

“Tell me somethin’ girl / Are you happy in this modern world?” sings the great prophet of our time, Bradley Cooper, on the Oscar-winning song “Shallow” from “A Star is Born.” These lyrics are what I hear plays like this asking its audience every time it goes to another hot-button issue. In the first scene of the play, one half of the team discusses the Cambodian genocide while the other half discusses pads vs. tampons. The obvious message is that high school girls contain multitudes and, no matter the topic, can find many ways to be vicious to one another. By the end, the prophecy is true. The girls aren’t happy in this modern world.

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Georgie Riggs

Arts & Entertainment Contributor | Class of 2019 | Major: Communication

2 comments

  • Anonymous

    March 2, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    “Who even knows what’s happening with that girl rubbing orange slices across her face?” — You mean the fact that she suffers from an eating disorder, which was picked up by many in the audience? “The assault is not shown and the character stays silent.” — You mean the commentary on society’s prevalent problem with glossing over sexual assault and the difficulties that are tied to coming forward with it? “The thought of death miraculously cures anxious girl of her mental illness.” ——— Oh boy.

    This article comes across as very misinformed and ignorant. It’s more than fine not to like a play — theater and criticism have always been partners — but it’s a different story not to even take a few quick seconds to carry out a Google Search when you’re writing a piece.

    Reply

  • Anonymous

    March 2, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    “The cast members, all identified solely by the numbers on the backs of their jerseys” — this is actually not true. If you had paid attention you would have caught that. Two of the girls are named toward the end of the play. Their names are Megan and Alex. Megan’s mom even comes onto the soccer field and says, “Megan’s watching” and talks about her at the end of the play.

    “using a girl’s rumored abortion against her” — they do not use her abortion against her. The character that brings up the abortion is trying to find some way of fitting in and connecting with the other girls who keep ignoring her. She does not know much about the other players except for the fact that one of them had an abortion. The character who brings this topic up has lived all over the world and would not understand why this would be such an offensive and personal thing to bring up. If you didn’t know, culture and what is considered socially acceptable is different around the world.

    “the character stays silent for the majority of the scene afterwards” — oh wow. So I guess many victims of sexual assault do not stay quiet after they are assaulted. It’s not like they carry the shame of what happened to them and relive the experience over and over. Of course she would stay silent after being embarrassed in front of her teammates about the fact that she was assaulted. In reality, 955/1000 perpetrators walk free after committing an assault. MANY victims stay silent — not just her.

    “In the first scene of the play, one half of the team discusses the Cambodian genocide while the other half discusses pads vs. tampons. The obvious message is that high school girls contain multitudes and, no matter the topic, can find many ways to be vicious to one another.” — this scene is actually showing that the girls discuss some very real topics while some other topics are immature. They are in the process of maturing but are still childish and joke with each other. Who was so mean to you in high school that you think every high school girl is vicious?

    To the Trinitonian: please do your research before you make your own conclusions about a play you clearly do not understand. A Google search, simply paying attention to the play, or discussing the play with others would have prevented your lack of understanding. It’s really not that hard. Do better.

    Reply

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