"The Jammer" (Pine Box Theatre): Clever Moves

"The Jammer" (Pine Box Theatre):  Clever Moves

If you can't play nice, play Roller Derby. Just ask the  Chicago Windy City Rollers.

#121.  Pine Box Theatre presents THE JAMMER.  It’s the 1950s.  Roller Derby is all the rage.  It’s drama on wheels as colorful personalities slam each other for the big win.  Jack is transfixed by the theatrics.  He idolizes Charlie Heartbreaker, Three Nuts Kiger, Cindy Gums and the rest of the motley crew.  He dreams of joining them in the rink.  His fiance and parish priest oppose the notion.  When a talent scout convinces Jack to take a skating chance, the game playing really starts.  THE JAMMER moves with some slick angles.

In a play about roller derby, it’s not surprising the best scenes are the skating ones.  Cut-out figures, uniform outfits (Costume Designer Joshua Allard), skillful movement (Choreographer Matt Hawkins) make this match-up a real spectacle.  Hawkins, along with Director Vincent Teninty, has the cast fake-skating in circles. It’s clever and amusing. Later, a pivotal relationship moment takes place on a roller coaster ride.  The simulation takes a dramatic conversation and sends it merrily plummeting down a hill.  It’s this contrast layering that fascinates and pulls focus. The movement throughout the show captivates putting the story in second place.

A roller derby play?!  Playwright Rollin Jones created a unique concept for the stage.  Teninty and Hawkins give the idea wheels.  The talented cast roll it out.  The speed bump is the multiple stories unfolding.  The primary plot is the coming-of-age tale of Jack (played by Josh Odor).  Odor is one lovable doofus.  His disenchantment over romance tweaks at the heartstrings.  But his kinship with Bill Bannon (priest) delights with holy fervor.  Bannon plays a hilarious paternal sidekick.  There is plenty of comedy in this show.  Some of it skates across the floor.  Some of it falls down. There are scenes that seem to be visiting from a different play.  A bird telenovela is a quirky cute scene but is like lacing up cleats for the derby. These intermittent side stories make for some clunky transitions.

Still, THE JAMMER whips up enough excitement to keep the audience engaged in the real game.

Production photograph courtesy of Michael Brosilow

Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission.

At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport

Written by Rollin Jones

Directed by Vincent Teninty

Thursdays and Fridays at 8:15pm

Saturdays 5pm and 8:15pm

Sundays at 7pm

Thru July 1st

Buy Tickets at www.pineboxtheatre.org

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