On the Rocks – Wolfcrush: a Queer Werewolf play

The takeaways

  • A queer coming-of-age anthem. Shamelessly and deliciously hot.
  • Strong performances and ensemble work.
  • Clear cultivation of a queer space, although occasionally overlooking more marginalized identities within the community.

 

In my pockets

I know and have worked with a handful of people in the cast and creative team. I’m very much an East Coaster and have just a basic understanding of what it’s like in the American South. I couldn’t drink the night of the show, and, knowing the culture of drinking that On the Rocks fosters, I was nervous that I would feel left out, but, as a QPOC, I was really pumped to see some representation.

 

Design

Lights: Alyssandra Docherty’s strung light bulbs throughout the space occasionally made me feel like I was in a coffee shop rather than a horror movie, but the payoff of them during the Law and Order SVU interrogation sequence was incredibly satisfying and isolating. Overall, the lighting made the piece feel sexy and dangerous.

Sound/music: Meghan Reed’s use of 2000s era song choices, while fun, left me feeling a bit confused in juxtaposition to the use of what looked like more modern technology and Junyce’s on-trend costume choices. I was a little confused about what time period we were in. Meghan did a great job clearly defining the world of the woods, and the sound created for the werewolf transformation raised the stakes of the experience.

Costumes: Corrie Meehan’s costume design expertly defined each character both in the world of their high school and within the world of the werewolves. Beecher, Junyce, and Kyle all had a textural calling card for their werewolf, which helped tell each character’s story of how they came to this form.

Set design: Julia Montante created an simple and effective set paired with loud and hilarious props that helped communicate the heightened world of the play. The woods’ constant presence served as a reminder of the looming danger throughout.

Choreography: Kevan Sullivan fostered a language of tender intimacy, animalistic lust, and painful transition that created an engaging other-worldly quality to the expression of sexuality on stage.

Also, a shout out to Stage Manager Scout Cox, who called this fast-paced show amongst an awesomely rowdy audience.

 

Performances

Syndey Banks as Junyce was a standout for me. Her energy demanded that time slow down whenever Junyce appeared. Campbell O’Hare (Kyle) and Josh McLucas (Huck) navigated characters with internalized systemic sexism, racism, and homophobia with humanity, each portraying specific and heart wrenching character arcs. José Raúl Mangual’s Beecher communicated a universal experience of unrequited teenage love that often got vocal reactions from the audience. Jenna Kuerzi moves through multiple adult male characters with ease and amazing comedic timing.

 

Direction

Elaina Di Monaco’s direction was crisp, fast paced, and brought out the best in her ensemble. It was clear that she created a room that empowered the ensemble to explore messy topics with boldness.  At times, I felt as though the piece focused more on psyching the audience up rather than pushing the plot forward or baring the teeth of the systemic issues presented in the play. Mayor Crabapple was a bumbling conservative clown, which was hilarious to watch, but a moment or two of unbridled and terrifying racism or homophobia would’ve helped to raise the stakes as the wolves closed in on White Coon County, or communicate the undeniable power of government at play here. I particularly appreciated the time taken on the first sex scene between Kyle and Junyce, which so clearly illustrated a sexual coming of age for Kyle and a softening of Junyce’s hard exterior and celebrated consent. Queer womyn don’t get this kind of representation on stage and Elaina utilized this as an opportunity to take space and cover it with queer joy.

 

Writing

At the core of Haygen-Brice Walker’s piece is a connection between queerness and danger and beauty that crystalizes in different ways for each character and drives the plot forward. The piece really sings when examining this connection either within the queer relationships or juxtaposed by the straight white maleness that is presented as it’s foil. The scene between Principal Roman interrogating Juynce in Act 1 geniusly portrays a meeting of two equals – one in power and one empowered – that rolls all of these things into one.  Act 1 runs long and gets lost in portraying the nostalgia of high school. Characters making comments on Junyce’s race but not necessary Beecher’s led me to believe that the play was trying to comment on the white passing experience, but I wished that had been more explicit.

 

Accountability

Wolfcrush was unapologetically for hot queers with one or two drinks in them, and Eliana and Haygen, or On the Rocks, created an atmosphere that not only welcomed this audience but embraced and encouraged them to be their fullest selves during the show. This led to an amazingly engaged and vocal audience here for every twist, turn, and removed item of clothing in the play.  

The director’s note of the show states that “Wolfcrush is for every queer, everyone who loves a queer, anyone that might be queer, and everyone in between,” and it is truly amazing to see queerness so loudly represented on stage. But, when Principal Roman repeated jokes about his (unseen) wheelchair-bound wife requiring medical assistance, but there isn’t a disabled person on stage to undo the myth of victimhood, On the Rocks’ definition of queerness shrinks. When the play treats fatness as entitlement, references eating disorders, and puts an actor in a fat suit to get laughs on stage – On the Rocks’ definition of queerness shrinks. When the producers encourage drinking excessively in an overheated space but don’t make their water free and don’t provide non-alcoholic options or shout outs to the sober buddies who can’t or don’t drink – On the Rocks’ definition of queerness shrinks. I really appreciated the production, but these instances tainted an otherwise joyous night. I have no doubt that On the Rocks will continue to grow in visibility, and I am excited how they continue to represent.

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