Each year, The Araca Project selects groups from Syracuse University, the University of Michigan, Florida State University and Northwestern University to participate in a Producing Intensive. At the end of the project, the students perform Off-Broadway at the American Theatre of Actors.
This year, “Five Point Productions”, was selected for their show “American Games”, a new play by Kevin H. Slack. The show took us on a journey of a news reporter covering baseball player (Henry Wool) and his relationship with his father and fiance. After Henry retires, we follow him to a high school coaching position where he is asked to help an up and coming pitcher. The first act was filled with heightened anger shared by all the characters. Happily, the second act turned out to be more comedic and enjoyable.
My first note was “slow down”. At the beginning of the show everyone was very rushed. Timing and spacing are key to plays. Taylor C. Hays who played Patrick came out kicking in the first scene but found his character and started sitting in the silence soon after. He did a nice job with his supporting role. Chelsea Niven who played Laura was all one level; yelling. Easing into the different stages of anger would have been nice to see. Plus, I can only imagine her voice is shot. It was interesting to me that the playwright chose to have one woman be sassy and overly sexual and the other angry all the time. Both women’s roles were hard to watch. Matt Maretz played the star baseball player Henry Wool. I’ve see him act for many years and he has continually improved with the passing of time. His line “some people are just born to do things. I was born to pitch.” was touching and I enjoyed his heartfelt moments. My favorite scenes were when Henry was with his friend Jason (Gabriel Wright). They worked really well together and balanced each other out. Henry being the more angry guy and Jason comedic, fun and light hearted.
For a new work this show was a good building block. It has potential and I am glad I saw it. Some things I would like defined are “what year does this take place?” Sometimes it felt present day but at other times it felt much older. There were so many baseball facts and figures (especially in the first scene) that some could be scaled back so the audience doesn’t get caught up in it. At the end of the day, it isn’t about baseball stats, it’s about people and relationships. The role of Laura seemed to be so angry, bitter and yet somewhat freakishly in love with this guy who doesn’t care about her. She swore all the time which was somewhat unnecessary. I wish she had some different dimensions to her. That role could use some tweaking. Again, some interesting ideas and story telling. I’d love to see it re-worked a bit to get the kinks out and then hopefully given a second chance to be seen. You can learn more about Five Point Productions here: http://www.fivepointprod.com/