The Wolves' soccer-playing tale scores on every front

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      By Sarah DeLappe. Directed by Jamie King. A With a Spoon Theatre production, in association with Rumble Theatre. At Pacific Theatre on Friday, October 19. Continues until November 10

      I love, love, love The Wolves. Like the best sports matches, this play is packed with virtuosity and surprises.

      American playwright Sarah DeLappe’s debut script, a 2017 Pulitzer Prize nominee, follows the members of a girls’ indoor-soccer team. The play announces its terrific theatricality right off the top, as the team members sit in two circles, going through a series of warm-ups. One cluster is debating the justice of prosecuting an elderly war criminal—they argue over the pronunciation of Khmer Rouge and whether they have Skype in Cambodia; the other is talking about tampons. It’s impossible to follow all the overlapping dialogue, but it all feels real. “We don’t do genocides till senior year,” one girl says. “Her family is super Christian,” says another, explaining why their friend (who’s gone off to the porta-potty) still uses pads.

      DeLappe’s characters, known only by the numbers on their uniforms, are recognizable types: the mean girl (#07) and her faithful sidekick (#14), the smartass (#13), and the bright, authoritative stickler for detail (#11). But their struggles, sometimes suggested by no more than a single line or gesture, are achingly specific: sexist coaches, eating disorders, panic attacks, relationships, loss and grief.

      Each girl constantly negotiates her sense of self within the group (they are all eager to police each other’s language and opinions, and countless lines include the phrase “you guys”), including #46, the new girl trying to find a way in, whose inopportune blurts only alienate her further. And there is so much of the texture of real life packed into each scene—note how many more players have colds with each succeeding game, for example—that the characters all emerge as nuanced human beings.

      Director Jamie King and her cast are in perfect sync, nailing both the complex rhythms of the dialogue and the considerable physicality of DeLappe’s script. This show is a literal workout for the actors, who deliver many of their lines while doing running and passing drills on the tiny AstroTurf-ed stage.

      Standouts in this very strong ensemble are Jalen Saip (#11), Danielle Klaudt (#7), and Montserrat Videla (#14), who are all convincingly skinless. And then there’s Georgia Beaty as the sweet, excitable, and not terribly bright #8, who gets to say things like “Can I just say I don’t get what the big deal is about self-knowledge?” Beaty voices #8’s thoughts with note-perfect timing and complete sincerity; she’s hilarious.

      Nicole Weismiller’s lighting artfully enhances the emotion, especially in a few short, powerful scenes without dialogue.

      There’s not a weak spot on the field in this production. Go, team!

      Jalen Saip and Shona Struthers in The Wolves.
      Ron Reed