Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Jammer" runs circles around all of those other Roller Derby plays

The performance space at Balagan Theatre is on the tiny side. At maximum they can cram about 100 seats in there, but that leaves a stage the size of a ping pong table. Yet already this season they've managed to have an all-male strip show and a circus at Balagan with plenty of room to spare.

Just as impressive is the current production of The Jammer by Rolin Jones, directed by Terri Weagant. Weagant and set designer Jen Butler fit a Roller Derby rink, the team bus, a cathedral, and an amusement park all onto the stage for this laugh riot of a show -- "The King Lear of Roller Derby plays." Though none of the actors is actually on skates, Weagant uses other wheeled devices and set pieces to create that skating sound in the rink, to amazing effect.

The Jammer is a familiar story, really. Boy thinks his life is Dullsville, so he hits the road for a big adventure. The adventure turns out to be not so hot, and boy learns there's no place like home.

Boy in this case is Jack Lovington, played with aplomb by Nick Edwards. Christie Nelson was a ball of fire as Lindy Batello, chain-cursing, hard-drinking cannonball of a Derby girl and Lovington's love interest on the circuit. Unfortunately for Jack, she's only interested because she's being paid by slimy team owner Lenny Ringle, played with great relish by Balagan regular Ashley Bagwell. Michael D. Blum tries to keep Jack on the straight and narrow as Father Kosciusko; in the end it works out. Versatile and talented Ray Tagavilla plays four parts, including the doctor who cures Jack of what Lindy gives him. That's Nelson and Edwards at left above in a photo by Andrea Huysing from the play's Facebook page.

The Jammer provides non-stop laughs and is a great night out at the theater. It runs at Balagan through April 3.

DISCLOSURE: Weisenheimer is chair of the board at Balagan, but it doesn't make me biased!

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