Final Draft: The Wolves (SUNY Oneonta)

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

One Comment on “Final Draft: The Wolves (SUNY Oneonta)

  1. Marisa Lenardson
    The soccer floor turf of the black box theater is decorated by a bench and trash can upstage. This simple set leaves room for the array of 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 as relatively bland as the set.

    The college-aged actors present themselves with the attitudes and mannerisms of high school students. Since the entire cast is onstage for nearly the whole show, it is important that they maintain consistent body language. They are in a space where eyes are always on them, and because these actors are focused on their warmups and movements their characters would make, the believability of their world is enhanced. Player #2 was strong in committing to small, delicate actions that are a product of her self-conscious, cautious character. When she is told she is “so skinny,” she clutches her stomach slowly. Conversely, when player #2 dives to eat the orange slices, her ferocity and quick movement are jarring. This break in her usual pace leads to greater shock as she throws up and there is the realization that she has an eating disorder. The characters have behaviors that are well defined through gestures and when they stray from normal conduct, it is noticeable.

    Later on, in The Wolves, Player #00 has an intimate solo scene. 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 field until falling to ground. She rips off her jersey and looks at it. As her eyes lock on the fabric and never stray, it’s clear that her pain relates back The Wolves in some way. In a matter of seconds, she clutches the shirt close to her chest, showing remorse. The actor takes her time to play around with the tender emotions of a character who has just lost a friend. She keeps the audience on edge about the direction of the scene until finally releasing the scream that feels trapped within her.

    The captain, player #25, draws attention to herself in a nonverbal manner. When another player tells her it’s unfair that the college scout did not ask to see her, she doesn’t respond. Instead, the captain uses movement to exhibit her inner thoughts. The actor lies on the ground and begins to aggressively work out, appearing to move as fast as humanly possible. Her face turns bright red as she expresses anger that fades into disappointment. It feels heartbreaking to witness her physically punish herself, knowing that she’s probably thinking “I’m not good enough.” However, despite this powerful scene, there were some flaws to player #25’s performance.

    The captain and several other players tend to rush their lines. Throughout the show, rather than working together as teammates to wait for the right moment to speak, many were in haste to deliver their response. Making sure to include pauses and take a breath would have helped to slow down their fast pace. The captain’s delivery stood out more because of how quickly she gave demands, which sounded like reciting a grocery list instead of trying to motivate her players to move.

    A sound effect of a whistle signals the end of each scene. It is the only sound effect throughout the show and accomplishes what it set outs to do. However, for curtain call, “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten plays. Actors take their bows and as they exit, begin to sing along. It’s unclear if that choice is made as characters or actors. “Fight Song” feels like a generic choice with simple lyrics that was intended to resemble the motifs of empowerment and feminism within the show but fails to match their complexity.

    Even if the set was removed from this production of The Wolves, the costume design clearly shows that this is a story about a soccer team. The actors wear jerseys with their numbers on the back and a wolf shadow on the front. Each wear appropriate gear, and sometimes a little extra, such as player #2 who has headgear. In their final scene, the captain passes out arm bands before their last game prior to nationals. Though the captain’s band is differentiated with a “c,” the item is another piece of clothing that unifies them as a team. There was one issue with wigs at the end of the show. The captain shaves her head and it is obvious that her buzzcut is a wig.

    Backpacks were used for props as the team brings them into practices. However, considering that only one of them is ever mentioned or used, it calls to question if they are all necessary. In the long pauses in between scenes, one had to watch the crew run to collect backpacks, just to return them to players who would bring them back out a minute later. They felt more like a limitation than an advantage.
    The lighting design was practical and used to make sure the stage was evenly lit. There were shifts in lighting when the tones of a conversation were meant to be more serious or intense. It was an indicator of heavy topics to come like abortion, eating disorders, or dealing with the intense loss of a friend. The dimming of lights also occurred when the focus shifted onto a specific person or area of the field.

    In between scenes, the stage was almost completely dark, but left enough light for crew to run out and change the set. However, being stuck in those in-between moments with nothing else occurring led those instances to drag on too long.

    SUNY Oneonta’s The Wolves is respectful to the material that provides a personal inside glance into the lives of teenage girls in high school. Overall, the production is able to communicate the intimacy of the dialogue between players but could improve several aspects to evoke stronger connections to the messages of the show.

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