Sarah De Lappe’s play “The Wolves” is having a bit of a moment. On top of being a finalist for the Pulitzer, it’s slated for over 50 productions across the US - making it one of the year’s most produced plays.
When you go see the Echo Theatre Company’s production (and you should go see it) - it’s easy to understand why.
On the simplest level, it’s the story of a girl’s high school soccer team warming up. It’s a play that exists in the moments before the real thing is going to happen - a bit like high school itself. The conversations are the kind that happen when people aren’t talking about anything - they’re the words that fill up the time while stretching and getting ready for the game. Of course, because they mean nothing - the girls end up revealing everything.
In between quad lunges, the conversation veers between the terrible injustice of genocide and the Khmer Rouge and the anxiety of panty liners. Part of the magic in Ms. De Lappe’s writing is she captures the fluidity and relativity of the high school mind (okay, who are we kidding, the human mind). In one moment we’re talking about a personal tragedy and in the next how terrible it is that Nationals are going to be in Tulsa not Miami!?! Of course, from the outside these two things don’t measure up - but from the inside - they are both catastrophes in the moment.
Through these little details, we begin to see the pecking order and the history of these girls. We learn how, like a pack of wolves, they can be vicious and biting and how an outsider has to fight for standing. But we also see how they protect one another. The play, and especially the Echo’s production, does a fantastic job casting this team. You’ll recognize these girls immediately - but while they’re all familiar they never sink into stereotype.
You go on a ride with these girls and through their lives you see their world - and see it shattered. You’ll laugh with them, you’ll cringe with them, and ultimately you’ll probably weep with them.
It shouldn’t be noteworthy in 2019 that the overwhelming majority of this production team are female - but sadly it is. Not only are you seeing an all-female cast in a play written and directed by women but also designed and produced by mostly women (by my count there are only 3 male names among the 23 names listed on this production). That’s a big deal and the Echo should be celebrated, as it has been, for its commitment.
It’s also important to see this play as part of the stellar body of work from director Alana Dietze. Ms. Dietze has directed a string of plays at the Echo (“Dry Land”, “A Small Fire”) that have provided tender, poignant and fierce windows on the female experience. If you didn’t get a chance to see those two plays - don’t miss “The Wolves”.
And if you’ve got a teenager in your life, this is a great excuse to take them to the theater. You’ll both laugh, you’ll both feel uncomfortable - and you might gain a little window into each other.
Isn’t that what theater’s really about?
“The Wolves” plays at The Echo Theatre Company in Atwater Village through April 22nd.