Review: THE WOLVES at Goodman Theatre

Review: THE WOLVES at Goodman Theatre

Pictured: Cydney Moody (#8), Sarah Price (#11), Natalie Joyce (#7), Mary Tilden (#13), Isa Arciniegas (#25), and Taylor Blim (#2). Photo by Liz Lauren. 

By Erin Shea Brady

There is no denying the change in the air. Women, across various communities, are tired of being silenced, tired of being dismissed as fragile, tired of being dismissed — period. With the momentum of movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo behind us, we’re not only seeing more women fight their way to the forefront of major artistic pursuits, but when they get there, they are changing the narrative in a big way.

We meet the women of THE WOLVES to the tune of a remix of modern feminist anthems, on a life-like soccer field (impeccably designed by Colette Pollard) in the middle of the Goodman Theatre. From the get-go, these girls are whole people. Given the frequency with which both women and young people are portrayed as somehow less complex, less fully human, than their male or older counterparts, this in itself is groundbreaking. Playwright Sarah DeLappe, in collaboration with director Vanessa Stalling and this bold, strong ensemble, leans hard into feminine ambition, intelligence and physical strength.

The play’s structure makes an emotional build quite challenging to find. It is constantly resetting, with each twist and turn reading as its own separate event, so while tensions brew and lines are crossed, the play doesn’t lend itself easily to momentum. I expect that this capable company of actors will settle into the play’s rhythm more and more as the run continues. In particular, Isa Arciniegas, Taylor Blim, and Erin O’Shea strike a nice balance between authentic, youthful moments of genuine discovery and a strong awareness of storytelling, enough so to keep the audience fully engaged in their arc.

The play’s impact comes mainly in retrospect. In the final moments, Meighan Gerachis as “Soccer Mom,” in an awe-inspiring few minutes of stage time, brings the full intensity of adulthood into the space, with all of its knowledge and vulnerability. It wasn’t until the end of the piece that it really dawned on me what I’d been watching. THE WOLVES shows us a world without grown-ups: a microcosm of our very adult struggles through the half-formed lenses of our youth. They have our biases, our judgments, our insecurities, our ambitions. It is an agonizing and urgent gut punch to see these young women subscribe to dangerous patriarchal myths as they navigate the pressure of new sexual experiences, dismissing incidents that are not okay and perpetuating an unsafe narrative of female submission.

The women of THE WOLVES work to process and form opinions about complex political issues, and in a painful turn, they grapple with grief. It was moving to see this piece this week, given the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and the subsequent rise of Generation Z’s uniquely impactful activism. In spite of their rightful missteps and misgivings, young people (here, young women) have grit, intelligence and fight, and the play proves it.

More and more, femme theater makers and filmmakers are righting the wrongs of poor representation. DeLappe’s THE WOLVES is a powerfully necessary addition to a new canon: that which represents women as they are — bright, messy and real, with complex wants and needs. The Goodman offers a meaningful showcase of young talent and a story that sets a new and vital standard for the representation of women and girls.

THE WOLVES runs through March 11th. For more information visit goodmantheatre.org.

About author

Erin Shea Brady

Erin Shea Brady is a contributing writer and critic at PerformInk and Newcity Stage. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Erin has assistant directed and dramaturged productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's inaugural Playwright's Lab, and participated in the Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola.

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