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Noisy Jammer a unique presentation
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Noisy Jammer a unique presentation

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Jammer
Balagan Theatre
Through April 3


And now for something completely different! Go to the theater to watch the roller derby? Really? Well, kinda, if Balagan Theatre has its way. It's presenting The Jammer by Rolin Jones. When Jones wrote his script, he also attached a huge request to the director, Terri Weagant: Under no circumstances should the actors wear skates!

Weagant and her team have taken that challenge and designed all the furniture to move, instead, on wheels! So you get all the noise and metal wheel sounds you can handle, anyway. The actors glide around in "skate mode," which is funny, but if they are also pushing some furniture, the racket is satisfyingly loud. The sleek track set by Jen Butler works well for the piece.

The story is based in the 1950s, and involves aspects of Catholicism and New York life. A pious young man, Jack Lovington (Nick Edwards), falls in love with the roller derby and decides to leave his two dead-end jobs to earn more money on the derby circuit. He asks his priest's permission (Michael D. Blum), who turns out to have a soft spot for the derby. But his fiancée thinks it means he's dumping her, even though he tells her he wants to earn money for a nice honeymoon.

Going on the road means that this naïve guy is going to learn a lot more about the wild world out there, and he does. He meets lots of different derby-playing types, including some intimidating women, foreigners, and the producer, Lenny (Ashley Bagwell), who looks like a shyster. Lovington feels like he's found something that he does really well, which is a big boost to his self-esteem - his old jobs driving a taxi and working at a factory haven't made him feel very special. But his fiancée deals him a blow by getting pregnant by someone else while he's gone. In return, he has an affair with a skater, gets a huge (and we mean really, really huge) case of STDs from her, and thinks he has fallen in love with her.

It's all played for laughs, and the naïve attitudes of the '50s are nothing like the social norms of today, even though the play was written only a few years ago. The point of the plot is not very clear, but the noise and unique presentation certainly give you a whole different idea of what theater can be.

Edwards is a very appealing central character actor, staying true to his quest and even his girl. The whole cast agilely recreates the derby atmosphere, and even set changes are done adroitly. Accents are generally acceptable. Jay Irwin adds hilarity as a radio announcer who slides his "station" on sideways to report derby action. Christine Nelson plays the tough derby girl who is paid to sleep with Lovington and gives an affecting performance of someone who really wants love, but is afraid to show it.

The ending seems to run out of steam when Lovington leaves the derby, but to the extent that leaving excitement behind for real life is many people's experience, maybe that's part of what the playwright thinks is important for growing up. For more information, go to www.balagantheatre.org or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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