by Samuel L. Leiter
Sports fans! Don’t be deceived by the glam promo shot of actress Terri Mateer, star of A Kind Shot, showing this tall drink of Gatorade in high heels, a black bustier, and miniskirt, made up, with her blond hair blowing in the wind and a basketball palmed in her right hand.
The Terri we see in her autobiographical, one-woman show looks much grittier and down to earth, garbed in skin tight jeans, knee-high boots, and a black jersey top with an embossed peace sign, her face unmade up, and her hair casually tied in a ponytail.
Mateer’s lanky, athletic, body fat-free, 6’1” frame seems even more imposing in the tiny confines of the TBG Studio Theatre, seating around 35. Briefly seen at the Davenport Black Box Theatre in April 2015, and produced as well in a variety of more casual venues, A Kind Shot tells the fascinating story of Terri Mateer’s search for an identity.
Standing on a polished wooden floor outlined with a basketball key and baseline, and holding a basketball throughout, Mateer dribbles delightfully through the picaresque game of her life. She offers vivid, often raunchy, and sometimes amusing anecdotes about how she came of age; how her widowed, ultraliberal mother raised her; how she learned to excel at basketball; how she pursued other dreams, like modeling, architecture, and acting, with excursions into stripping and drag performance; and how she coped with a potentially life-threatening condition.
Along the way, although she never uses the expression, she describes various salacious experiences of the #Me Too kind about sexually abusive authority figures, not only men but women.
Sometimes, though, given the no-nonsense, smart, and sassy woman Mateer presents, it’s a little hard to buy the innocence she professes when recalling these circumstances. I wanted to cry “Foul!,” for instance, when someone in her story refers to “inappropriate behavior” and she responds by saying, “What is that?” Such instances of seeming disingenuousness occasionally threaten to bench this eager player.
Speaking in a conversational manner that is so unpretentiously direct and honest-sounding it almost seems she’s improvising, Mateer lands many three-pointers as she passes, pivots, spins, jumps, and shoots her way through this 75-minute exercise. Handling the basketball with polished expertise, she’s thoroughly convincing as a former pro baller (in France), but it’s just as easy to imagine her drafting furniture designs for an architectural firm she freelanced for in Chicago.
Having to cover so much ground, Mateer is forced to compress whenever possible, so she often leaps from episode to episode without filling in the blanks as much as one might wish. This gives her tale a jumpy quality, although you could argue that it’s fitting for her subject matter.
After the curtain call, Mateer sticks around to talk to the audience, seeking feedback and even asking for advice on potential audiences for the show. According to my plus-one, who remained after I left, she had private chats with the many visitors who wanted to speak to her. Obviously, her story has resonance.
A Kind Shot may not be a slam dunk but it offers a fascinating insight into one unusual woman’s hoop dreams.
Photos: James Hollywood
A Kind Shot
TBG Studio Theatre
312 W. 36th St., NYC
Through February 25