Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review - The Changing Room (T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Daniel Terna

For a couple of years, nearly a decade ago, I played rugby for a local club. Despite being left with a pair of knees that most days feel like they have ground glass in them, I wouldn't trade that time for anything. That 'we few, we band of brothers' camaraderie simply can't be replaced.

It says a lot about the current production of David Storey's The Changing Room at T. Schreiber Studios that all I wanted to do after the show was strap on a pair of boots and go play a match, knees be damned. This production so vividly captures that spirit of bonhomie (and the near constant ball-busting that goes along with it), that I really just wanted to get a little of that feeling for myself.

That said, I won't be lacing up and playing again any time soon, but I may just go back to see The Changing Room again before its run is over. If you've ever wanted to know what men are like when they are on their own, away from women and some of the expectations of society, The Changing Room is an entertaining way to find out.

Set in the changing room of a semi-professional rugby team in Northern England, the play follows the team as they play a game on a cold morning. In terms of the plot there's not much more than that. The play simply looks at the three points of the game when the team is using the room: pre-game, the half, and after the game is over.

The fascinating thing is watching the players interact - class, education, money, it all gets stripped away with their clothes as they become members of a team, and the only measure of a man becomes his strength and valor on the pitch.

The ensemble is excellent, and like an actual rugby team shows a great deal of diversity in terms of their athleticism. Some of the cast look like they could be professional athletes; others look more like weekend warriors, and it works well. Among the standouts in the cast are Edwin Sean Patterson as Walsh, the peacock of the group, Mike Dazé as the talented and pampered team captain, Joshua Sienkiewicz as Kendal, the player who gets the major injury of the game, Peter Judd as the locker room attendant, Harry, and Edward Franklin as the team owner.

As is always the case with T. Schreiber productions, the set is amazing. Walking in, it's surprising not to smell sweat, liniment, and the other odors of a well-used locker room, Hal Tiné's set being nearly picture perfect.

Terry Schreiber's direction sparkles, and with the outstanding work by his actors, he has captured the essence of rugby - this hooligans' game played by gentlemen - and has created yet another excellent production.

Three notes to the potential audience. First, the production features nudity - a tad more demure than one normally sees in a locker room, but occasionally full-frontal nonetheless. Second, the cast does a great job with the Northern accents, which for some audience members makes the show hard to follow (I didn't have any trouble, but the couple behind me sure did). And third, if you're a rugby player, you'll notice that their scrum is a little high. While this might lead to injuries on the pitch, it's okay in a theatre.

The Changing Room
By David Storey
Director: Terry Schreiber
Producing Director: Barb Kielhofer
Dialect Coach: Page Clements
Scenic Designer: Hal Tiné
Costume Designer: Anne Wingate
Lighting Designer: Dennis Parichy
Sound Designer: Andy Cohen
Technical Director: Mike Dazé
Make-up Designer: Amanda Donelan
Stage Manager: Liz Elise Richards
Assistant Stage Manager: Victoria Loye
Publicist: Lanie Zipoy
Props/Associate Scenic Designer: Chris Minard
Assistant Director: Olivia Killingsworth
Assistant Scenic Designer: Diem Hoang
Assistant Lighting Designer: Zach Pizza
Assistant Costume Designers: Allison Gentry, Polly Fossey
Costume Intern: Emily Cannon-Brown
Assistant Technical Director: Jon Okabayahi
Rugby Consultant: Ben Bergen

Featuring: Eric Percival, Matthew Ballinger, Marcin Paluch, Mike Dazé, Luke Guldan, David Donahoe, Lowell Byers, Brian Podnos, Sean Gallagher, Peter Judd, Justin Noble, Nick Fesette, Edwin Sean Patterson, Joshua Sienkiewicz, Randy Miles, Rick Forstmann, Edward Campbell, Matt Watson, Eliud Kauffman, Edward Franklin, John B. McCann, Leajato Amara Robinson, Bud Stafford

T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre
151 W. 26th, 7th Floor

Through April 3rd

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