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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
Hard-hitting Hardball deserves good ratings
Arts & Entertainment
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Hard-hitting Hardball deserves good ratings

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Hardball
Live girls theater at
Annex Theatre
Through March 26


Do facts still matter in journalism? In the age of politically extreme television punditry where the term 'Nazi' is thrown around with complete disconnection to its historical meaning, and if a journalist gets it wrong says it's 'no big deal' (Leonard Pitts Jr., syndicated, Sunday, March 6, 2011, 'The peril of lower standards in the 'new journalism'), concern for the facts seems to be waning. No one really knows what this means yet, in our new 'always connected' society.

A world-premiere play, Hardball, is being presented by Live Girls Theater, housed at Annex Theatre. It is a character study of the rise of a journalist who 'outs' herself as a Republican, gets fired, and then learns to exploit television punditry to become a media darling.

Playwright Victoria Stewart based her main character on Ann Coulter. Virginia Eames is a beautiful but outrageous media pundit who doesn't seem to care if she makes sense or uses actual facts in her commentaries.

The play is a smart, well-researched, challenging play. Jaime Roberts plays Virginia Eames with a vulnerable doggedness at first, refining her into a hard-nosed, pugnacious media commentator whose path to success means chewing up and spitting out anyone in the way. Along with Belyea as the romantic foil, Shawnmarie Stanton plays a liberal journalist colleague who is discarded, Jill Snyder plays a TV pundit whose job Virginia covets, Roy Stanton is a mentor who unleashes the conservative monster within Virginia, and Alyssa Keene has a small key role as the widow of a journalist beheaded by insurgents while covering the war.

The technical aspects of the play include taped segments and live video feed onto screens on stage. Set designer Brian Stricklan creates three spaces standing for Virginia's home, an office, and a TV studio, and it all blends satisfactorily together at once. Modern music and sound design by Erin Stewart is aurally perfect in creating mood and the sound effects of a TV station pundit program.

Director Arnette combines everything into a tight rhythm, even as short scenes quickly move the action along. For a complicated production, on opening night, the whole event ran extremely smoothly. The cast is excellent, and Roberts uses her own pleasing character to good effect by making Virginia almost someone to root for, and then someone you love to hate.

Though Hardball won the 2007 Primus Award - a prestigious new play award - and generated a lot of interest among some of the nation's top theaters, somehow it didn't get picked up.

Live Girls previously premiered Stewart's 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick, which is a reinvention of the last few days of the science fiction author's life. It was done in the style of Dick's short stories. (Dick is the generative writer of some of the last several years' blockbuster sci-fi flicks, including Minority Report, the iconic Blade Runner, and the new The Adjustment Bureau, just out). So, Stewart's Hardball was early on a favorite of theirs to try to produce, but Live Girls had to wait, for a number of reasons.

Being a small company, Live Girls had to stand in line behind bigger theaters who might choose the play, and the technical needs of the production were huge, and a big concern to pull off for a small budget. Once it was clear that, amazingly, none of the bigger theaters chose Hardball for their seasons, it became a real possibility for Live Girls to consider.

Meghan Arnette, artistic director of Live Girls and director of this production, relates that there was concern about trying to realize the production while they were still in their Ballard digs, focusing on making the rent every month and putting on six productions a year. 'We went mobile in order to take the time to do the projects that we wanted. It's our first equity contract. [Note: Shawn Belyea, who plays a journalist-mentor-lover of Virginia Eames, is a member of the Actors' Equity union.] We worked on the pre-production for about five months & I don't think we could have done it if we were paying rent and chasing the next production as we were. We have restructured ourselves to put the resources behind something a little more complicated and challenging and figuring out what it's going to take. So I'm pleased about being in that place.'

This is challenging, gritty, substantive theater that makes you think, makes you argue, leaves it up to you. High five to Live Girls for putting this play on a stage, where it belongs! Go see it!

For more information, go to www.lgtheater.org or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/143458 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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