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A season of fierce women’s soccer

The Wolves at Lakewood Playhouse

Ensemble cast of "The Wolves". Photo credit: Tim Johnston

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Despite being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three years ago, Sarah DeLappe's The Wolves is not well known, which is probably why more than half the seats at Lakewood Playhouse were empty opening night. That's also why community theaters are reluctant to try new or little-known plays, and that's a crying shame. They should be rewarded, not shunned.

The Wolves is a uniquely structured play. Lakewood Playhouse's production takes place on an almost empty stage -- the only set being artificial turf on the floor and a curtain at the back that serves as a soccer goal. It is the story of a season of a high school girls' indoor soccer team, and it takes place on a series of Saturday practice sessions as the girls talk about life, love, war, sex, soccer and each other while getting ready for the next day's game.

As groups of people do in real life, they talk over each other with multiple conversations going at once, and their talk happens while stretching, kicking soccer balls and running around (in this case off stage, stage right, out into the lobby and back in stage left). Keeping up with the various conversations and story lines is challenging to the audience since there are multiple, overlapping stories and not everything they say is easy to hear. Pay close attention. But if you miss a few words here and there, you'll still be caught up in the action.

The first practice session opens with one of the girls talking about the Khmer Rouge and their murder of millions of people. Most of the team know nothing about the Khmer Rouge. Another girl uses the word "retarded" and the team captain (Andreya Pro) says "Don't say the ‘R' word." Yet another girl makes a snide comment about pregnancy and the others get upset because, as it is soon revealed, one of the girls may have had an abortion. The goalkeeper suffers from anxiety and keeps running off the field to vomit. A new girl joins the team, and there is mystery about where she came from, and why she plays so much better than the others. And there is talk about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is modern life as it is lived and talked about by teenage girls, and it is as uncompromisingly realistic as a play can get.

The Wolves is a true ensemble piece. The girls do not even have names but are listed in the program only by the numbers on their uniforms. They are, in addition to Pro: Taylor Greig, Alyssa Gries, Kaydance Rowden, Jasmine Smith, Courtney Rainer, Penelope Venturini, Mia Emma Uhl and Sierra "Max" Margullis. All but Pro, a college graduate who has performed with Tacoma Arts Live and Shakespeare Northwest, are students in high school or college who have had relatively little stage experience other than school performances, but each and every one acts like a professional. They come together as a team, and each actor plays her character as a unique person with distinct character traits. The key is you can't see them acting, not a one of them. They are simply girls being girls, talking about the things girls talk about while going through their paces on the soccer field.

Through this process, they reveal a story that includes a lot of humor, coming-of-age angst, and ultimately, tragedy, which they rise above due to their mutual support and strength of character.

Every audience member who is a parent of a teenage girl, or who has been a high school girl, or has known high school girls, will recognize these fierce warriors, The Wolves.

Congratulations to Lakewood Playhouse, to Director Indeah Harris and this outstanding all-female cast for a job well done in presenting this play.

It is not recommended for young children. Tough subjects are discussed in language typical of the characters portrayed.

THE WOLVES, 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through March 22, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $21-$27, 253.588.0042,

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