14 August 2014

"The Boxer" at the Athenaeum in Chicago

It is rare to presence a play with such strong quality in every corner (concept, writing, casting, directing, acting, choreography, lighting, music, sound effects) that the only word to use is "perfect." That is how I am compelled to describe The Boxer, playing now through the end of the month (August 2014) at the Athenaeum Theater on North Southport in Chicago.

Set in the late 20s or early 30s, the story line revolves around a 135-lb boxer who is scheduled to fight "The Bavarian Beast" (a large and menacing person with mob backing) and is both frightened and inept. One of a group of down-and-out workers agrees to serve as his trainer. What the boxer doesn't know is that the trainer is a woman disguised as a man in order to get work. A romantic farce ensues.

What makes the play highly original is that it is a live, on-stage, silent movie with a live pianist and a few sound effects. A screen above the stage gives occasional dialogue lines, as in the silent movies. The lighting gives a sepia monochrome effect. There are three video segments in the same sepia tones, also silent, projected on the screen as part of the story. The effect is a multimedia presentation which scrambles our expectations in a hilarious romp suitable for all ages.

The acting is spot-on perfect, expressing without words the full range of emotions the characters are feeling. As is typical in farces, there are numerous running gags through the show, and a couple of surprises which I will not reveal, not wanting to spoil your enjoyment. The pace is just right and the energy is breathtaking.

If you like the theater or silent movies or farces or all three, you must not let the month go by without seeing The Boxer at Chicago's Athenaeum. You may thank me later.

The Boxer
Athenaeum Theater, North Southport St., Chicago
Directed by Kacie Smith
Choreographed by Ahmad Simmons

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