Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Brelby Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Henry IV, Part I and It Happened One Night

Melody Chrispen (far right) and Cast
Photo by Shelby Maticic
Anyone who has ever been a member of a group of people that spends a lot of time together knows that these close relationships can quickly evolve into a surrogate family who collectively experience both the highs and lows of life. With realistic dialogue and characters that represent a diverse group of individuals, Shelby Maticic's drama, Spin, playing in a world premiere production at Brelby Theatre through April 14th, features a solid cast who throw themselves (literally and figuratively) into this story of a family that is formed by a group of female roller derby skaters who bond together as they face good times and bad.

Maticic's plot focuses on the Denver Derby Dames, a tightknit group of roller derby players, and specifically on sisters Iris and Dahlia, the team's captain and a high school physics teacher, respectively, who have plenty of baggage from their past that has caused their relationship to be very rocky. When Scarlett, the team's star jammer, gets pregnant, Iris asks Dahlia to join the team to fill the spot and also as a way to bring her loner sister out of her shell. That decision, plus the intricate relationship that Scarlett has with both her on and off again girlfriend Gwen and Joey, a close friend of Iris and Dahlia, sets in motion a series of events, both humorous and dramatic, where secrets from the past are revealed as well as several authentic plot twists.

While Maticic's script is fairly well crafted, there are a few areas that could use tightening or cutting. A flashback scene that opens the second act is somewhat confusing, since it seems, at first, like it is set in the current time, and doesn't really add any value to the plot, especially since the only important moment of that scene is also brought up later. And while the plot flows well and gives some detail on each of the supporting characters, I wanted to know a little more about the past relationships that Joey and Scarlett had with Iris and Dahlia, especially since those relationships are central to a few of the twists in the plot. There is also a piece of dialogue that foreshadows a latter event that sticks out and makes what happens later predictable.

Brian Maticic's direction is very good, especially in the scenes where Dahlia is learning more about the women on the team, which are staged well with moments set in various areas of the stage so it is never static. The confrontational scenes are infused with realism and the comical moments are directed to add a nice humorous break from the more serious scenes. There are scenes set both on and off the derby track, and Maticic stages these action scenes fairly well. However, the derby track is small due to the size of the Brelby stage, and the cast don't all exhibit proficient skating skills, which detracts from the nature of those scenes. Also, because the cast have to frequently change in and out of their skates, pads and jerseys, since the plot goes back and forth between on and off-track settings, the scene changes drag a bit and the backstage noise of the costume changes sometimes overpowers the onstage dialogue. Some of that dialogue is fairly important narration that Dahlia has where she speaks to the audience about physics and parallel lines, which relate to both the action of the team and the relationships of the characters, and also frames the show.

The entire cast is good in creating natural characters. Melody Chrispen and April Rideout do well in portraying the realistic bond, warts and all, of sisters Iris and Dahlia. Shelby Huston, Jonathan Gradilla, and Elle Broeder are very good as Scarlett, Joey and Gwen, respectively. The Derby Dames team is just like a family, supportive but argumentative as well, and the whole cast, including every member of the large supporting cast, brings a sense of realism to their characters.

While I have a few small issues with this script and this production, Spin at Brelby Theatre Company is a good drama that convincingly portrays how family, and friends who form their own version of a family, handle both happiness and heartache, and the ups and downs of life with both strength and warmth.

Spin, through April 14th, 2018, at Brelby Theatre Company, 7154 N 58th Drive in Glendale AZ. Tickets are available at or by phone at 623-282-2781.

Written by Shelby Maticic
Director/Choreographer: Brian Maticic
Scenic Designer: Brian Maticic
Lighting Designer: Devon Mahon
Costume & Sound Designer: Shelby Maticic
Stage Manager/Hair & Makeup Designer: Kevin Fenderson
Props Design: Jean Lunnon Hailey

Dahlia: April Rideout
Iris: Melody Chrispen
Joey: Jon Gradilla
Scarlett: Shelby Huston
Gwen: Elle Broeder
Bella: Sarah Bary
Veronica: Analyssa Sanchez
Alice: Rebecca Ulbrich
Tempest: Shanna Griffin
Lexi: Nina Eleanya
Julia: Marina Sharpe
Hudson: Tyler Miller