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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

The Wolves
Lincoln Center Theater  Summer 2021

The ideal audience for this play would be parents of teenage girls, because the message is that the kids are all right.

New York's Lincoln Center Theater continues to fill the imposed gap in production by putting archive videos of past shows online. Here Sarah DeLappe's 2017 play is an almost plotless picture of an American high school girls' soccer (i.e. football there are jokes about the rest of the world calling it by the wrong name) team.

In a string of training sessions and pre-game warm-ups the girls stretch and practice while chattering about anything from world affairs to local gossip. Writer DeLappe, director Lila Neugebauer and the cast capture a very attractive image of not-fully-formed, occasionally callow but essentially good kids coping with the ordinary and extraordinary crises of being teenagers.

They win some games and lose some, deal with fitting a new girl into the team and losing one to injury, learn by trial-and-error how to joke and not go too far, and cope with a death among them.

Except for the last, none of these things really shake them because, as the play shows us, their friendship, their dedication to the game they really do work hard at training and their inherent mental and emotional health carry them through.

One way in which the play is not fully successful is in individualising the girls. There's the bossy one, and the new one, and the not-too-bright one, and so on, but the differences are minimal, and when at the end we learn that one has died I couldn't tell which it was, even with the rest onstage before me.

But that, of course, is at least partially intentional, as the play is more about the general sense of the group than any individuals the girls' names are rarely mentioned, and they are identified in the cast list only by their uniform numbers.

One result of that is that none of the excellent adult actresses really stand out. And if they are only intermittently successful in conveying a sense of adolescents, one of the play's points is how unexpectedly adult the girls can be.

This is one of those rare and surprisingly satisfying plays in which nothing seems to be happening and yet we come away with a good feeling that all is well. The kids are all right.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  The Wolves - Lincoln Center Theater 2021