Saturday, October 27, 2007

Redshirts Redux - The WaPo Reviews Redshirts

Mr. B. has previously posted on Lou Bellamy's Penumbra production of "Red Shirts."

The Washington Post has a pretty favorable review, selections of which are below:

As the central character in "Redshirts," Dana Yeaton's new play about an academic scandal, freshman running back Dante Green is an irrepressible rhymester, channeling college experience into riffs of hip-hop braggadocio. Living up to his literary first name, Dante's brand of versifying is practically a full-contact sport.

In the absorbing and suspenseful production at Round House Theatre Silver Spring, actor James T. Alfred turns Dante into 200-plus pounds of restlessness and swagger. And Alfred's is just one of the vivid performances that makes "Redshirts," directed by Lou Bellamy, a seductive entertainment.

Fortunately, most of the actors have such energy and presence that you can't see their characters simply as sluices for Very Important Ideas.

As the soft-spoken Bigelow, Williams gives demureness an edge of terrifying ferocity, and James Craven is hugely watchable as her wary antagonist, the imposing, ethically compromised Coach Tyrell Moore. Ahanti Young has such a riveting, glazed-eye shtick that it becomes fascinating in itself -- you almost forget to read his character, the perennially concussed athlete Curtis Combs, as an object lesson in why football should be illegal.

The actors playing the athletes smartly emphasize their characters' physicality, fidgeting, tussling and fooling around with a football at odd moments. Their macho jitters liven up C. Lance Brockman's stiff and ugly set: a football-field floor stretching in front of a wall where video and slide projections depict gym rooms, classroom buildings and other institutional vistas.

[I liked the set a lot. De gustibus...]

But the athletes have a larger vulnerability, as their encounters with English literature suggest: They've missed out on valuable cultural grounding enjoyed by society's elite. " 'Moor' and 'prayer?' That's a rhyme now?" Curtis complains in frustration while studying Emily Dickinson. "Man, they just keep makin' this [stuff] up!" Language is a kind of power, but it's one that largely eludes these students.

Reporting from flyover-land, where good things occasionally happen.