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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Redshirts

Also see Susan's review of The Women of Brewster Place

Redshirts
Will Sallee, Ahanti Young and James T. Alfred
Too often, dramas on topical subjects come across as clear-cut morality tales with an easily distinguishable hero and villain. Luckily, Redshirts, the new play by Dana Yeaton now at Round House Theatre's black-box space in Silver Spring, Maryland, sidesteps this problem by examining the issue of corruption in college football from several sides. No one is completely right or wrong, and the people who make mistakes act out of the best possible motives.

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
Redshirts
October 17th November 11th
By Dana Yeaton
Dante Green: James T. Alfred
Dale Mayo: Will Sallee
Jahzeel Wilson: Cedric Mays
Curtis Combs: Ahanti Young
Coach Tyrell Moore: James Craven
Tori: Kimberly Gilbert
Dr. Audrey Yantz: Kimberly Schraf
Dr. Charlene Bigelow: Regina Marie Williams
Directed by Lou Bellamy
Round House Theatre Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD
Ticket Information: 240-5644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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