As our colleague Ed Rampell wrote in his recent Hollywood Progressive review, "When Lighting Strikes: Freewheeling," you'll miss out on the main chance if you skate past "For the Love of (Or, the Roller Derby Play)," playing for a couple more weeks at Hollywood's Home
">The Theatre of NOTE .
Ordinarily, when we really like one of Ed's reviews, Sharon works a little extra social media magic to get it before a few more readers and we let it go at that. But this time, we were so impressed by the roller derby-themed performance we attended Sunday evening that we want to add our own two cents.
What you really take away is the superb acting, led by rookie skater Joy Ride, her love interest Michelle, coach and former lover Andrea the Vagiant, and the team's lead jammer Lizzie Lightning.
Stepping back to last December, Sharon took me out to a dinner in a lovely new spot downtown for my 70th birthday. But then—in the most delightful daily double—she surprised me by taking me to a concert at the Ace Hotel nearby, refusing to tell me where we were going or who we were about to see until we had taken our seats. Out walked Home
">Gregory Porter, the fabulous jazz singer whose booming baritone playing on Pandora starts many of our workdays in the office we share. Needless to say, I was blown away—both by that wonderful evening we were about to enjoy and by "Sly Sharon's" ability to keep that secret under her hat.
So Sunday night was my modest attempt to match her play by honoring both Mother's Day and Sharon's birthday (you'll have to guess which one). Now, I can't keep a secret to save my soul, so she knew we were going to see a play, which we don't do nearly often enough. We didn't know much about "For the Love of"—Ed's review hadn't yet arrived and the online description didn't give us the full flavor of what was to come.
What we knew was that a young, newfound friend of ours—Tania Verafield—had some kind of role in the large, all-woman cast. So, with tickets costing $10—less than most movies nowadays—we could show a little solidarity, have a pleasant evening out, and be back before "C", our cat, began to worry.
As kids, we both used to watch the Roller Derby on television, the men's team alternating with the women's, as the Bay Bombers fought it out with the Chiefs on the oval track in bruising, well-scripted battles. We were dimly aware that the "sport" had made something of a comeback in recent years with amateur, mostly all-women's leagues springing up around the country. But neither of us had actually attended a game, if that's what they are—and it was a little hard to imagine how actors on a stage could capture the violence and riotous spectacle of what we used to watch decades ago.
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But capture it they did! The splendidly choreographed skating scenes take you right down onto the track, especially since the 50-seat NOTE is such an intimate setting that you risk taking a role in the play yourself if you're sitting in the front row and extend your feet. The masterful use of a few simple props that serve triple duty as locker room lockers, a bed in the apartment one couple shares, a car to ferry team members around town, and the stands around the roller rink where the Brooklyn Scallywags skate is clever indeed.
As Ed's review points out, playwright Gina Femia's story itself is straightforward—a coming-of-age, finding-yourself, sticking-to-your-guns, following-your-heart, not-selling-out parable overlaid with a lesbian love triangle and, of course, played out on a roller rink. With director and choreographer Rhonda Kohl's lighting, sound effects, and choreography, it's just amazing what this stellar all-woman troupe can do in a long, narrow room—with a unisex laboratory in the corner—that looks more like an old-fashioned storefront than any kind of theatre.
What you really take away is the superb acting, led by rookie skater Joy Ride (Cassandra Blair), her live-in love interest Michelle (Elinor Gunn), coach and former lover Andrea the Vagiant (Alina Phelan), and the team's lead jammer Lizzie Lightning (Tania Verafield). With all the motion and commotion in portraying a roller derby team practicing and competing, nursing bumps and bruises in the locker room, and trying to salvage a relationship in an apartment across the river in New Jersey, these 14 actors pull you along in the emotional arc of the play's story.
And leading the pack is our friend Tania, who literally skates away with the show. You have to know her in the real world to understand what a phenomenal transformation she makes, from a sweet, soft-spoken, rather demure Angeleno to the rough-talking, Brooklyn-accented, elbow-swinging, in-your-face Latina she plays in "For the Love Of." You believe that she could knock you on your butt—and wouldn't hesitate to do it—should you venture out onto the track with her. And her smoldering intensity in pursuing Joy Ride—and the deep hurt it covers—is utterly believable.
Do yourself a favor, buy a ticket—or maybe we'll send Lizzie Lightning and her crew over to give you a few sharp elbows to the midsection.
For the Love Of (Or, The Roller Derby Play), Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through May 26. Theatre of Note is at 1517 N. Cahuenga (just north of Sunset), Hollywood. Home
">Reservations/Information here; 323.856.8611.
Dick & Sharon