Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review of 20% Theatre Company Chicago's Tight End

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tight End. It was by Rachel Bykowski and it was directed by Kallie Noelle Rolison. It was about a teenager named Ash/Ashley Miller (Amanda Forman when I saw it, usually Bryce Saxon) who wanted to be a football player at her high school. Her coach, Coach D (Patrick Pantelis), doesn't feel like girls should be able to play football with boys because he thinks boys will overpower girls on the field. Her mother, Darla (Rachel Mock), also wants the best for Ash and doesn't want her to get hurt, but she does want her to get what she wants, which is to be on the team. Sam (Erich Peltz) is her first friend that she gets on the team, even though they start out as enemies. Sam gets persuaded that girls should be able to play football. It is about feminism, football, and friendship. I think this show is really intriguing and I think it is a great story to tell. The play starts out exploring whether girls should play football with boys, and for a lot of the play it does seem like that is possible and it can all work out, but the ending kind of changed your mind about that and can make you wonder if she ever should have played football. The message wasn't immediately clear to me, but I feel like they were saying that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men, but that there are dangers to that for women.

Sam and Ash have a really meaningful friendship that they both really needed. Neither of them had had true friends, it seemed. They both have very troubled relationships with their fathers and they both needed someone to be there for them. But the thing is, it didn't start out that way. It started as a competitive relationship where they were trying to outplay the other. And she called him a homophobic slur. She explains it by saying that's what all the guys call the other guys. But he is actually in the closet, so it is especially offensive and scary to him. It shows you that on this football team, people are being trained to say homophobic things to one another to hurt each other. And that creates a very scary environment for anyone who is actually gay or bi or isn't homophobic because they are scared to say anything because they will be accused of being gay like it is a bad thing. Ash gets picked on in a similar way because she is a girl, but for a while she just wants to make everyone else feel bad instead of helping other people who might feel her pain. She doesn't have the power the coach would have to change the culture of the football team; she basically has to live with the way that the game is. She might change some people's view of a girl's ability to play the game, but she can't change the game itself.

I really liked the way they organized the show. From the beginning you knew that something bad was going to happen to Ash, but you wonder what that specific thing is and how terrible it is. It really pulled you into the story right off the bat, like Moby Dick or Riverdale, how it starts out being narrated by somebody who already knows what happened but reveals the details and reasons bit by bit. I did feel like the dialogue seemed to be slightly choppy and unrealistic at times. People told the blatant truth in asides to the audience, but you did't see the different tactics they used to try to get they wanted in the dialogue. The tactics and the dialogue sometimes felt repetitive. It also may have helped to have more characters you see on stage. I wanted to know more about the other people on the football teams; I think it might have made me understand Ash's experience more.

I think that the way the show ended was slightly confusing to me at first, but after I thought about it for a while, I realized the message they were trying to give. At first I thought the play was about overcoming obstacles and people realizing girls can play football. That would have been much more upbeat, but it wouldn't be very unexpected or different. The ending shows that it doesn't just take one girl to change the way people see football. I went to the theater thinking I was going to see a girl-power play. But it wasn't that simple and life isn't that simple. It taught you that it will take a lot of change in the society of sports (and the world) so that women can be treated equally in environments that are usually perceived as masculine. Ash gets on the team, trains really hard, and becomes a good football player. People recognize her skills, but she is still in danger in that environment because the people around her don't respect women. Even though women are capable, there are still dangers. She broke through the glass ceiling and then was met with a bunch of men who wanted to bring her down. That's the depressing truth of life right now, but if we change the system it can be different.

People who would like this show are people who like powerful stories, strong women in bad situations, and overcoming obstacles. I think this is an intriguing play. It made me think a lot about what our society is like today and what we can do to change it. I liked it.

Photos: kClare McKellaston

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