This Open Stage production, directed by Rachel Landon, dives right into dialogue while the girls stretch their calves and quads. There’s no time to catch your breath on the bench; the stream-of-consciousness banter is relentless. The teammates have numbered jerseys, pigtails and braided hair. Several water bottles are strewn in the background.
Even though the girls are not referred to by name, it is easy to tell them apart. Each teammate blossoms into a complex individual—much more than a simple trope.
The compelling performances make it is impossible to pick a “main character.” The players are: #11 (Maura McErlean), team captain; #25 (Benny Benemati); #13 (Vanessa Marie Hofer); #46 (Erin Shellenberger); #2 (Carly Lafferty); #7 (Katherine Campbell); #14 (Kalina Jenkins); #8 (Hailey Lockner); and goalkeeper #00 (Lidi Nyambi).
The tone smoothly transitions from serious to playful in mere seconds. While one clique discusses immigration, the others fret over bad grades in social studies class. #2 says, “curse word,” and #7 makes fun of her and swears profusely. Some girls talk about the “Plan B” pill, while others have never heard of it. Innocent #8 proclaims her desire to live in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Middle Earth.”
One shining moment occurs when the girls execute a “spiderweb” passing drill. It looks so natural despite that they are kicking, walking and talking all at once. The pacing is impressive.
But don’t get too comfortable with the recurring warm-up routines. “The Wolves” also serves as a reminder that life is unpredictable. #7 is only the best striker on the team until a better striker comes along. Obscenities ensue.
“The Wolves” is a play about soccer without showing a single character scoring or blocking a goal. A whistle blows offstage to signify the start of a new game. Then, flashes of light in the darkness provide glimpses of the girls running on and off the field.
Watching “The Wolves” is redolent of eating orange slices and strapping off sweaty shin guards, but there is a bigger picture. These teen girls mature at different rates, but they still grow and learn side-by-side. They come together as a team to discuss life’s ups and downs. Once you see this play, it is sure to spark some great conversations of your own.
“The Wolves” runs through March 10 at Open Stage Harrisburg, 25 N. Court St., Harrisburg. For tickets and more information, call 717-232-6736 or visit www.openstagehbg.com.
Pictured above: Cast of the “The Wolves.” Photo by Haley Harned.