Company One’s ‘Colossal’ is a theatrical touchdown
BOSTON — Football players are risking their lives each time they set foot on the playing field.
It is a violent, chaotic, dog-eat-dog world and emotions run high. And when tragedy befalls one member of a team, in a way it happens to all.
The Company One Theatre is unafraid to tackle any theater piece or any topic. Three years ago, it fearlessly and skillfully recreated the world of pro wrestling in “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.”
Now the troupe is staging a rolling world premiere production of Andrew Hinderacker’s football drama “Colossal.” This production is one of five being staged around the country in various locales.
“Colossal” requires a detailed, realistic setting, and once again the Company One design team has come through, with a no-doubt expensive outlay for a theater company its size, performed in the versatile Roberts Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts.
The key is setting the right rhythm and atmosphere. As theater-goers take their seats on both sides of the artificial turf field before “the game,” the players are briskly running drills and plays under the guidance of The Coach (Damon Singletary).
It’s all here: crowd noise, scoreboard, replays, whistles, end zone. As someone who has covered the NFL on a part-time basis for a decade, I was impressed by the detail.
Hinderacker tells the story of a former college football player named Mike (Marlon Shepard), who suffers a devastating injury during a game, rendering him a paraplegic.
It is told with Shepard as Mike after the accident, wheelchair-bound, and in flashback mode with former UConn football player Alex Molina playing a younger Mike before the injury.
As older Mike moves in and around the action — even recreating in his mind the fateful play that paralyzed him — he sometimes clashes with his younger self, Young Mike in full throttle at his physical peak, who exhorts his older self to not give up and to “stay in the game.”
According to Ramona Ostrowski’s dramaturgy, playwright Hinderacker specified that the older Mike had to be played by someone in a wheelchair, and Shepard, an athlete and a paraplegic who has been studying with Company One for seven years, shines in his professional debut.
“Colossal” is presented in a compact 75 minutes — four 15-minute quarters and a halftime show that features an excellent three-person drum line and even a modern dance routine.
The dance routine and other choreography are the product of Tommy Neblett, who plays Mike’s father, a dancer who saw his son turn away from dance only to meet tragedy.
At its best, football is very much like a ballet — perhaps why so many players have incorporated ballet into their training regimens — and the play recreations, especially the slow-motion, freeze-frame ones — are especially well-done.
The cast members look the part and act the part, from Molina as the young Mike, former semi-pro football player Anthony Goss as Marcus, Mike’s teammate and fellow co-captain, to the ensemble members, who are all in.
Greg Maraio plays Jerry, physical therapist who struggles to help Mike come to grips with the injury, both the reality of his present life and the possibilities that still exist.
“Colossal” also explores two very different kinds of relationships; the relationship between players on a football team and the locker room camaraderie that‘s part of it, and a more intimate relationship between two of those players, and the realization that’s sometimes very personal sacrifices have to be made in the pursuit of a dream. .
Director Summer L. Williams had a lot on her plate with this one: creating and fostering the atmosphere and intensity of the sport; getting a cast with varying amounts of experience on the same page; and making sure it all finishes on cue before the final horn sounds.
With “Colossal,” Company One has again reached for the sky with a bold, original, exciting piece that is strongly and smartly executed. A touchdown, to be sure
The Company One Theatre production of Andrew Hinderaker’s “Colossal.” Directed by Summer L. Williams Choreography, Tommy Neblett. Dramatury, Ramona Ostrowski. Football expert, Adrian Hernandez. Scenery and projections, Kathryn Lieber. Costumes, Meggan Camp. Lights, Annie Wiegand. Sound, Darby Smotherman. Properties desgn, Molly Fitzmaurice. At: Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through Aug. 15 Tickets: $25-$38, www.companyone.org, 617-933-8600.