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Guess what! Boxing is a metaphor for life.

centerstage reviewed this performanceReviewed by Centerstage!Go Chicago!

A Red Orchid Theatre
1531 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60610 Map This Place!Map it
Tickets: or (312) 943-8722

Brett Neveu


Related Info:
Official website

Runs October 22, 2012-December 2, 2012

Friday8 p.m.
Saturday8 p.m.
Sunday3 p.m.
Monday7 p.m.
Thursday8 p.m.

Recommended a "Must See" Show

Brett Neveu, Red Orchid, and male on male violence. Judging by the playwright's past performance at the theatre, it's a surefire recipe for a hit. Brett Neveu brings his Pinteresque dialogue and affinity for the dreamlike, destructive act to the classic set-up of two dudes in a boxing gym. With all that tension and aggression packed onto Red Orchid's tiny venue (the stage can't be more than a sixth of the size of a standard ring), "The Opponent" is sure to rattle some skulls.

reviewed performanceCenterstage Show Review
Reviewer: Kristin Walters
Friday Oct 26, 2012

In July, Mike Tyson tweeted: “People love boxing because it’s a metaphor for life.” And that’s exactly how Brett Neveu uses the sport in his newest play “The Opponent” at The Red Orchid Theater.

In the first act, amateur boxer Donell (a charismatic Kamal Angelo Bolden) visits his former trainer, Tre (a jaded Guy Van Swearingen), before Donell’s first big match against an established prizefighter. Bolden balances Donell’s assuredness and insecurity well as Donell embarks on the familiar struggle of “young buck seeks validation from emotionally unavailable father figure”. Donell’s longing for mentorship is heartbreaking but why Donell feels so attached to Tre in particular never becomes clear. Swearingen puts on a great show through Tre, with a wonderful southern drawl and mysterious reticence, but Neveu leaves much to be desired regarding the development of his character.

Neveu writes incredibly realistic dialog, but Swearingen speaks it too eagerly, always chomping at the bit and reminding you his words are preordained, not spontaneous. And despite the smart script, old clichés still echo loudly: if you’re knocked down, you have to get back up again; you gotta roll with the punches.

Set designer, Joey Wade, impresses with his dingy gym and boxing ring, complete with scuffed pads and fraying tape, on which Donell and Tre fire their fancy footwork (courtesy of boxing consultant Al Ortiz). Director Karen Kessler keeps the actors on their toes, literally. The two men are in almost constant motion, making their pauses and silences all the more powerful.

Overall it’s a well-crafted play that feels real. There’s no doubt about Neveu’s talent; his light touches are laudable. Throughout the show there’s palpable tension brewing right beneath the surface, but more must come up for air before it packs the winning punch.

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