First Draft: The Wolves (SUNY Oneonta)

Please comment your reviews of The Wolves (SUNY Oneonta) here.

3 Comments on “First Draft: The Wolves (SUNY Oneonta)

  1. Marisa Lenardson
    The soccer floor turf of the black box theater is detailed only by a bench and trash can upstage. This simple set leaves room for the vast personalities and complex conversations to ensue from nine high school soccer players. SUNY Oneonta’s production of The Wolves showcases the team’s intimate relationships during warmup routines as they navigate the problems of the world and challenges within themselves. While the actors do deliver some emotional conversations and moments of vulnerability, overall the show feels about as plain as the set does.
    The college aged actors manage to present themselves with the attitudes and mannerisms of high school students. Since they entire cast is onstage for nearly the whole show, it is important that they maintain a consistent body language. They are in a space where eyes are always on them and because these actors remain focused on their warmups and movements their character would make, it enhances the realism of their world. Player #2 was strong in committing to small, fragile actions that are a product of her self-conscious, cautious character. When she is told she is “so skinny,” she clutches her stomach slowly and with a loose grip. Conversely, when player #2 dives to scarf down orange slices, her ferociousness and momentum are jarring. This break in her usual pace leads to greater shock she throws up and there is the realization that she has an eating disorder.
    Player #00 has an intimate scene alone with the audience. She enters slowly, sits on the bench, and aggressively rubs her face with her hands. Throughout the scene, the actor uses her breath to demonstrate her increasing distress. She runs around the whole field until she rips off her jersey. It is clear from the way the #00 looks at it after that her pain is related to The Wolves. In a matter of seconds, she shows remorse and clutches the shirt close to her chest. The actor takes her time to play around in the mindset of a character who has just lost a friend. She keeps the audience on edge about where the scene will head until finally releasing the scream that felt trapped within her.
    • The captain does not verbally respond with how she feels about not being asked to be seen by the scouter. Instead the captain uses movement to display her inner thoughts. The actor lies on the ground and begins to aggressively workout, appearing to move as fast as humanly possible. Her face turns red as she expresses anger that fades into disappointment. However, this powerful scene is only one part of player #25’s performance.
    • Something she and several other actors are guilty of is rushing their lines. Throughout the show, rather than working together as teammates to wait for the right moment to speak, many were guilty of responding before taking a pause. The captain was more noticeable because of how quickly she gave demands which sounded like reciting off a grocery list instead of trying to motivate her players to move.
    • Sound was not memorable. Only sound effect was whistles to insinuate the end of a scene.
    o The bow music “Fight Song” felt like a decision that tried to include an empowering end to match themes within the show. However, the song felt like a generic match that did not require much thought.
    • Captain’s wig for buzzcut looked fake
    • Props- were the backpacks necessary?
    o Had to have crew run to collect backpacks just to return them to players and be brought back in a minute late
    • Lighting was good
    o Practical use to make sure stage was evenly lit
    o Shift in lights when tone was meant to be more serious or intense or focus on a specific person (talking about abortion, #2 eating orange slices, #00 solo scene)
    • Costume design accomplished what it needed to
    o Numbers on backs were clear with detail of wolf shadow on front
    o All gear felt appropriate for a soccer team
    o Headgear for #2 was a good touch
    o Cuffs at the final scene, “C” for captain

  2. Suny Oneonta’s production of The Wolves takes itself seriously. It deserves to. While the script itself touches on several important themes such as sex, self-image, mental illness or wellness, immigration, death, and other common tribulations of a coming of age story, the actors on stage clearly wanted to give an authentic take on how young women would handle those struggles. They build up to it carefully, so as not to take you entirely by surprise but also give fair warning as to what’s to come. The ways in which the multiple messages the piece is conveying are softened by the guise of a group of high school juniors is effective in not telling the audience how to feel, but rather asking the audience to seek answers to the questions posed. The cast is engaging. The buzzing dialogue and conviction (or lack thereof) that each character has on a particular subject almost prompts the audience to step on stage and join in on the conversation.

    The balance between humor and sincerity does not go unnoticed. Simply put, the choices made are funny when they need to be and serious when they need to be. The pacing in the show was extremely effective at points, and at others the audience could have been given more time to breathe. Either to absorb the humor and enjoy it, or to ponder the themes Sarah DeLappe’s script wants us to consider.

    The run crew’s ability to clear the set quickly and quietly is impressive. Not just because they are fast and not distracting, but because the way the cast interacts with the space around them is a highlight of this production, so having a clear space in the beginning of a scene is just as important as the first impression to the set when the show begins.

    While the choices in pre-show and post-show music was appropriate, it sometimes felt as though it was playing into a stereotype. After the shows bows, the cast members began singing along with “Fight Song,” which was understandable – they were excited about a job well done. However, it felt like it was still part of the production. And unfortunately, it read as a P.S. at the end of a letter that disrupted an already convincing last word. The audience wanted to digest the message of the piece. We had just seen some heavy topics and emotions laid out before us.

    Lisa Bianco (Soccer Mom) is the final surprise present you receive on your birthday. While her stage time is limited by far, she is able to convey so much in a matter of a few minutes. Her costume only enhanced her conviction as a mother that had experienced what she did. The use of names and identities is primarily carried out through her character, as the audience begins to know the team as people with names and lives outside of being students on the field. Perhaps Bianco’s character is a commentary on someone’s identity before and after their death. Suddenly crowds are attending soccer games, and we finally learn the girl’s names. Her choices to address precisely who she is referring to only helps the audience gain memories from a time before the production’s beginning.

    All in all, the script has its flaws and yet the cast still manages to deliver a convincing performance. The audience wants to know these characters. We want to see them overcome their obstacles. We want to learn more about who they are besides a jersey and some soccer balls. While not all of those questions are answered, the desire to see more speaks to the engaging nature of the actors on stage and their ability to invite audiences into their world.

  3. SUNY: Oneanta’s production of “The Wolves” was an exceptional display of teamwork from both the cast and crew of the piece. The transformation of a black box theater into a turf field, detailed solely with one bench and one trashcan, allowed the audience to fully immerse themselves in the world of the play. The space lent itself to the piece acoustically, making the overlapping dialogue of the first and second scene easy to follow, and the use of the exits and entrances from the audience created solid and cohesive transitions throughout the entirety of the production.

    When the cast themselves entered in the opening scene, their overwhelming youthful energy flooded the space. Their ability to emulate such stark contrasting relationships throughout the team itself while maintaining a consistent sense of excitement for their supposed upcoming game added a little bit of brightness to each scene. The team itself presented such a diverse group of personalities, but were able to work together to make sure no one character overtook their scenes. While this piece discussing harsh topics such as racism, abortion, and political correctness, there was a certain air of youth and innocence that was retained through each act. The overwhelming sense of comrardery within this group of actors themselves was what really allowed the audience to suspend disbelief and fully immerse themselves in the environment.

    This show isn’t always easy to watch. It can be relatively “cringy” at times in terms of dialogue, but it’s written with a certain air of truth to each conversation. The way these girls discussed everything from their hatred of schoolwork to the excitement for a weekend with boys, felt very familiar. There was rarely an instance where the piece became hard to follow, mostly due to the actors understanding of their pacing. Their overall digestion of these difficult topics and perception of how the dialogue needed to flow in order for the audience to absorb their conversations was nothing short of impressive.

    The deliberate change of pace and emotion towards the final scenes was stark and deliberate. The cast knew how to use their dialogue to build tension in moments when the audience would least expect it. And once the show entered into the climax of the piece, the sense of dread that filled the space was overwhelming, even when we didn’t know what was coming next, or why. The way this group was able to literally “vibe check” the audience before even entering the space was commendable. This production in particular made it easy for the audience to laugh with them, love with them, and grieve with them.

    At the end of the day, this piece was directed beautifully and set in a space that allowed for the actors to fill the room with their energy. Every movement was deliberate. None of the dialogue ever felt rushed or “thrown away”. By the end of the piece, the sense of triumph overcoming tragedy was exactly what was needed to keep the audience wanting more. This was a team that left us wanting to continue to follow their stories. It was a very successful portrayal of youth and innocence that allowed for the audience to connect and want to grow with the team.

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