NY Theater Review by Sandi Durell
Boxing has caught the imagination of recent times as a means to an end here in theater land – and more recently at 59e59 Theaters where Brett Neveu’s latest dramatic offering, The Opponent (A Red Orchid NYC and Bisno Production), finds Guy Van Swearingen as Donell, a young rough and ready spunky boxer, sparring with his washed up aging trainer Tre (Kamal Angelo Bolden). What with the more elaborate “Rocky” production not too far away on Broadway and last season’s “Fetch Clay” (about Mohamed Ali) at New York Theater Workshop, the set of an old dilapidated boxing ring at the Rock and Anvil Gym in Lafayette, La. (designed by Joey Wade) has its imposing qualities as Donell flexes his muscles, jumps rope and sweats incessantly in this two-hander, fluidly directed by Karen Kessler, as these men reveal dreams and hopes – those still alive, those lost forever – as they spar and spew their emotions.
Donnell has hopes of winning a fight that evening in this life-like portrayal that mainly takes place in the ring – the first act filled with Donell’s expectations as he talks about the big house, the fancy cars as he faces off with Tre, a weary, worn out ex-boxer who never made it. All Tre can offer up is his advice; that you have to keep getting up when you’re knocked down – “a champion finds his way off the mat.” They battle with gloves and words.
The second act takes place five years later when Donnell wanders into the gym for a tune-up, to find an older, stooped Tre washing the ring floor and cleaning up. Donnell now has a wife and kid back home and has become a “road dog” – a boxer who goes from town to town for a fight and money, his chances of ever finding anything more ebbing away – the arrogance is gone, his countenance is one of defeat but still yearning for that elusive victory. Tre still has a resilience as they talk old times but their battling continues in a well-managed fight (fight director John Tovar) and a knock out punch.
The play is filled with heartbreak, delusions and failure in this well acted, explosive 100 minutes with one intermission.
Costumes are by Myron Elliott, Mike Durst provides the lighting and Joe Court the sound.
59e59.org 212 279-4200 thru September 7th