Review: “Flex” is a slam-dunk on relatable characters, but still misses a few pictures.

Kendrys Jones’s real-life story of youngsters, humor and heartache amongst 5 black youngsters in rural Nineteen Nineties Arkansas has flashes of brilliance on the courtroom. curveIn theatrical outfit by way of October 2, there are still some missed pictures and limitations to beat within the nimble footwork and again alleys of Jones’ poetic writing.

The present follows the intersecting tales of buddies and teammates on the Plains’ Lady Train: Starra, Sydney, Charise, Donna, and April. Cherise (a feisty India Tyree) is the non secular explorer of the group who is additionally in love with the quiet and decided Donna (Whitney Nelson). Then there’s Sidney (performed with the proper mixture of confidence and obnoxiousness by Kenisha Johnson), a transplant from California who will apparently be the primary recruit. And lastly, there’s April (Aminah Williams), who is pregnant and scuffling with what to do about it.

Although it is a part of a ceremony, the protagonist is Starra (Haley Elizabeth), who goals to proper the wrongs of her mom, a former highschool basketball star. It helps that Elizabeth is concerned in a number of readings of the play all through her journey, giving her mastery of this nervous and emotionally charged function. Stara is not simply hungry for achievement; She is ravenous to the purpose the place she is able to sabotage her teammates. “Everybody performs a little soiled,” she says in a soliloquy, so long as there isn’t any referee there to catch her dishonest is not unfair.

Coach Francine Pace (Andrea Gooden), proper, has a heart-to-heart with Starra, left (Haley Elizabeth).

As your characters in curve, Kendrys Jones is from small-town Arkansas and performed basketball all through faculty. Because her writing stems from this place of private affection and first-hand expertise, every character involves life with honesty and depth. This is the true energy of the play: the characters, their complexities and the way every actor makes noise.

All members of the ensemble have their second to shine. Andrea Gooden’s coach Francine Pace injects power and authority each time she walks on stage. Johnson exhibits off some good comedic tips throughout a scene the place Sidney recounts the thrilling particulars of a scandalous journal story. And, as a character in dire straits, Williams performs April’s rising helplessness within the face of unimaginable circumstances with an electrical desperation that offers the play its highest stakes. Her teammates wish to assist but don’t have any approach of understanding what she’s going by way of, main as much as the essential automotive trip to Mississippi.

Other highlights are the lighting and projection design by Bradley Bergeron, which presents splashes of vivid colour on the partitions and evokes the period’s recognizable palette. And each scene is supported by a candy throwback soundtrack—recognizable nostalgic jams from Des’ree and TLC, amongst others.

The play is, sadly, weak in two integral methods. The first is the puzzle of how you can current the video games on stage. Moments when basketball feats ought to dazzle, as an alternative, they get misplaced. This is most evident throughout main championships, once we ought to at the very least have the impression that teammates have given their all. Instead, on the night time I attended, there was a clumsy 5-10 minutes the place the actors — who, to be truthful, most likely weren’t forged due to their archery prowess — simply missed shot after shot, shot after shot. Free and tray. . This lack of familiarity with the sport was so apparent that it made some viewers members snort nervously.

Haley Elizabeth performs the protagonist Stara.

More efficient have been the moments the place they moved in line like an iconic choreographed dance, which I want director Pattraw Harris, who comes from an intensive dance background, had leaned into all alongside.

To be truthful, I attended one of many remaining preview nights earlier than opening night time, whereas the play was still being remade and revised, so these points will likely be resolved by the point you learn this.

The remaining comment is a very elegant presentation of April’s sudden and considerably inexplicable change of coronary heart about the potential of having an abortion. True, the play was developed on the 2020 Humana Festival of New American Plays, two years earlier than the Supreme Court overturned the 50-year safety. Roe v. Wade. But even so, once we stay in a world the place abortion is now unlawful, it is onerous to see a younger woman all of the sudden determine — as many TV exhibits and after-school specials do — that she “cannot simply undergo with it.” Arkansas. , even in instances of adultery or rape.

Let it’s: Pregnant folks within the Nineteen Nineties had extra rights over what to do with their our bodies than they do now. And it lends itself to additional examination of the messages we obtain about unintended being pregnant and entry to reproductive care.

Final Note: The story takes place in opposition to the backdrop of the early years of the National Women’s Basketball Association. Surprisingly, it wasn’t till 1997 that the league held its inaugural season with eight groups. Since then they’ve added a few, together with our very personal Atlanta Dream. But none of this WNBA background has been explored — even when it is extra related than the face of Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention in Russia, which highlighted the large pay disparity of feminine gamers throughout the United States.

from Hoop desires for Love and basketball for White males cannot bounce, Basketball has lengthy served as a vessel to inform a wider vary of tales with arguably extra versatility than the tales of baseball and soccer. But for no matter cause, we still must get A league of its personal A deal with for the WNBA.

So perhaps it is time to repair this? Jones leaves us with sufficient attention-grabbing questions and open potentialities for these vividly realized characters that a sequel can be nice to witness. It’s time for a full-court press on the backstories of those unimaginable athletes, who usually blaze a path with out their accomplishments being highlighted.


Alexis Houck is a member of the American Theater Critics Association. She has written and edited for quite a few newspapers, various weeklies, commerce publications and nationwide magazines, together with Tempo, The Atlantic, Mental Floss, Approx And Washingtonian. A local of Atlanta, Alexis has additionally lived in Boston, Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles. By day, she works in well being communications. At night time, he likes to cowl the humanities and be Batman.

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