Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Olney Theatre Center

Also see Susan's review of Belleville

Michael Patrick Thornton and Joseph Carlson
Ambitious is the best word to describe Colossal, the play receiving the first of four rolling world premiere productions at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. Director Will Davis and a powerful cast have created an involving and unexpected evening of theater, if perhaps a little overstuffed for its run time of less than 90 minutes.

Playwright Andrew Hinderaker takes on issues of masculinity and physicality in his story about a college football player and the catastrophic injury that changes his life. Misha Kachman's scenic design turns the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab into a stylized football field with a dance barre and mirror at one end; the audience sits on the two long sides as the players run, tackle, and charge as a unit. Two theatrical pros—Christopher D'Amboise, choreographer, and Ben Cunis, fight and movement choreographer—make the action visceral and exciting to watch.

The heart of the play is Mike (Michael Patrick Thornton, who suffered a spinal stroke in 2003 and uses a wheelchair). As he works with a physical therapist (James Whalen), he looks back at his younger self (Joseph Carlson) and the challenges he faced. However, while Mike's personal history is at the heart of the action, these conversations are part of a long and clich├ęd tradition of psychological drama.

Mike has had an unusual upbringing for a football player, the audience learns. He's "the anti-Billy Elliot" son of a choreographer (Steve Ochoa) who can't understand why his son would choose what he considers a brutal sport over the delicacy of dance.

Another concern is the meaning of masculinity in a sport such as football: Why do football players equate going to a strip club with the relaxation due to "real men"? With such an attitude, can gay players feel like part of the team? And, above all, is the thrill of playing worth the injuries and damage that can age a player before his time? These are all notable issues to discuss, but they can use more breathing room than they get here.

The interplay between Thornton and Carlson is fascinating to watch, as are the grounded performances of Ochoa and Odom, two men who love Mike in very different ways.

Olney Theatre Center
Sept. 3 - 28
By Andrew Hinderaker
Young Mike: Joseph Carlson
Player: Sam Faria
Player: Will Hayes
Player: Jeff Kirkman III
Player: Michael Litchfield
Damon: Steve Ochoa
Marcus: Jon Hudson Odom
Coach: KenYatta Rogers
Mike: Michael Patrick Thornton
Player: Matthew Ward
Jerry: James Whalen
Directed by Will Davis
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or

Photo: Stan Barouh

-- Susan Berlin

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

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