note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
Testosterone-fueled, high-potency energy dominates the Roberts Studio Theatre before, during, and after Company One’s production of Andrew Hinderaker’s one-act, 75-minute, super-duper play, “Colossal”. There’s so much here to praise, so much to absorb, appreciate, and enjoy, all under the watchful umbrella of Director Summer Williams. The non-stop action occurs on set-projection designer Kathryn Lieber’s cleverly creative football field and interior locker rooms, situated length-wise in the middle of the theater floor. Fans-onlookers watch from stadium seats, on both sides of the field.
Designer Annie Weigand’s bright stadium lights beam brightly at times, illuminating the entire space, while Darby Smotherman’s sound effects spur the crowd on. The huge electronic scoreboard hoisted on high, at one end of the field, and the goalpost on the opposite side, grabs fans’ attention, from start to finish, as we watch the score change, and projected announcements.
Playwright Andrew Hinderaker has constructed the timing, rhythm, and action like a typical football game, in four, 15-minute quarters, including a fun-filled, 15-minute, percussionist, kick-ass half-time show and drum-off, with percussionists Matthew Grina, Nick Liddie, and Seth Pumilia. The trio’s fun-loving antics, especially during their audience clap-along, provide a welcome relief to the play’s emotionally gripping scenes.
Football know-nothings, don’t lament. You needn’t be a pigskin aficionado to follow “Colossal,” which lives up to its name. The printed program ensures your tackling football moves and verbiage easily, by including two pages of Football for Dummies explanations,with diagrams of the field, offense and defense positions. and scoring.
Adding to this production’s authenticity is football expert Adrian Hernandez’s guidance, and Williams’ carefully handpicked, fantastic cast, namely buff,handsome star, Alex Molina, who portrays young Mike with intensity and athletic prowess. Molina played college football at UConn, and also two seasons professionally with Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks. Female theatergoers admired Molina’s moves, and found him to be easy on the eyes, too.
Boston native Anthony Goss facilely runs through his moves, too. Portraying young Mike’s dearest friend-teammate (and we mean dearest) Marcus, Goss played college basketball and two seasons of semi-professional football with the Randolph Oilers.
And wheelchair-bound Marlon Shepard’s portrayal of paraplegic, older Mike, is compelling. In real life, Shepard skied in college and represented the US nationally and abroad one year, on the National Adaptive XC Ski Team. According to research, when Shepard was in high school, on an educational trip to Italy, he fell from a three-story balcony, injuring his spinal cord. He has been a paraplegic for the past seven years. Shepard’s obvious joy portraying Mike, through flashbacks and in real time, while interacting with fellow actors, is infectious.
The outstanding seven-strong, multi-talented all-male ensemble also captivates. None of them are athletes. They’re all actors and dancers, who run through calisthenics, maneuvers, and hard-hitting tackles, in forward action, re-winds, slow motion, and more, as older Mike clicks his remote. He’s watching a video of his final game, when he became injured during a key play years ago, severely damaging his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed on the field.
The air is still. The crowd gasps, as the players hoist young Mike - the invincible young Mike - off the field, on a board. The emotional scene is akin to watching a young soldier on the battlefield, reverentially carried away.
This marvelous ensemble also doubles in Tommy Neblett’s magnificently, choreographed, fluid dance segment, that’s acrobatic, interpretative, and balletic. Inferentially, silently, the dance simulates football maneuvers and tribal moves at times, punctuating the parallelism between dance and sports. Neblett, associate director of dance at the Boston Conservatory, poignantly portrays Mike’s father, Damon. His flawless solo and stunning duo with young Mike are breathtaking.
Here’s a flash of reality, too. Surely, you recall years ago, when professional football players took ballet (yes, they wore tights, and iconic Joe Namath appeared in comic commercials, revealing his sexy gams in pantyhose).
On stage, the football players crack jokes, poking fun at beginning player young Mike, whose dad, a dance teacher, wants Mike to follow in his tracks.
Ah,the things we do for fame and glory. The reckless things we do for excitement, danger, knowing we’ll never get hurt - that we’re invincible - like young Mike convinced himself, until it was too late.
In older Mike’s stream of consciousness, young Mike taunts him, even when he’s working out with kindly therapist Jerry (Greg Maraio) on one end of the stage, drawing another parallel to the team’s workouts. As older Mike winds and rewinds his career-ending play that caused interrupted spinal injury, severing his ability to move his legs, we gasp, sharing his pain and broken dreams.
There’s more timeliness and discussion fodder in this multi-layered production, especially since professional gay athletes are coming out of the closet, revealing their gay pride. Young Mike craves the love and affection of teammate, Marcus, and the two engage in a brief tryst.
Marcus is reluctant, though. He’s resolute. Nothing will ruin his future in football.
The final scene is a tearjerker, a tender moment between a loving,supportive father and son.
You don’t want to miss it.
BOX INFO: Company One presents the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of Andrew Hinderaker’s one-act, 75-minute play, appearing through Aug. 15, in the Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts(BCA) Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Strong language; recommended for high school-age audiences and older. Performances:Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Check for related events. Tickets, $25-$38, students, $15. Visit www.companyone,org, bostontheatrescene.com or call 617-933-8600.