Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of The Women of Brewster Place
Yeaton worked in a college football organization for a semester in preparation for writing the play, so he could become familiar with the subject from a variety of perspectives: coaches, players, tutors, professors. His experience informs his portrayal of a fall semester at the fictional Tennessee Southern University, known for its football team's running backs.
In college athletics, the term "redshirt" refers to a student who trains with a team but does not play, saving eligibility for later. The hip-hop-rhyming narrator, Dante Green (James T. Alfred), is a self-confident redshirt freshman from California, competing on the team alongside Jahzeel Wilson (Cedric Mays), an African-American from the rural south; Dale Mayo (Will Sallee), a white player with a similarly rural background; and upperclassman Curtis Combs (Ahanti Young), who's fighting to stay competitive to the point of enduring concussions without medical assistance.
The players have their academic problems Dante, for all his cockiness, may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Curtis has undeniably suffered some brain damage and the audience observes them working with a tutor, Tori (Kimberly Gilbert), on their poetry assignments. Unfortunately, once they turn in their papers, the professor (Regina Marie Williams) sees sufficient similarities among them that she accuses the young men of plagiarism.
Yeaton draws out the ambiguities here. In this southern school, both the assistant coach attempting to help the players (James Craven) and the professor are African-Americans with memories of the days when they would never have been hired; the professor worries that preferential treatment for student athletes, greasing the system to allow them to receive passing grades for what she considers inferior performance, is itself a form of victimization. On the other hand, the tutor, a white woman majoring in theater, is not what she seems to be.
The writing is polished and focused. Under the assured direction of Lou Bellamy, the performers demonstrate the practiced interplay of a team, although Young's wounded character seizes the attention whenever he's onstage.
Round House Theatre