BWW Review: SANCTIONS at Delaware Theatre Co.
Aisle Say is prescient. He can determine where SANCTIONS, the terse and taut production now at DE Theatre Company, will NOT be staged: U of Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, to name a few. There are hundreds more.
SANCTIONS peels off the layers of the hypocrisy of big-time college sports and the millions and millions made off the back of the student athletes. Playwright Bruce Graham checks off all the boxes of the malaise and the disease in college sports: Institutional racism? Check. Rampant sexual assault on campus? Check. Athletes taking 'basket weaving' courses to ensure their academic eligibility? Check. Assigned professors who even take tests for the struggling athletes? Check. White men reaping revenues of stellar black athletes? Check. Winning at all costs? Check. Preposterous salaries for the coaches? Check.
Director Bud Martin has but four actors, yet the fascinating thing is that all present very defined characterizations of the dilemma. The entire ensemble is superb.
In the world of Division 1 football, there is no room for scandal and no tolerance for losing. As the cats come off sanctions, the racially-divided staff battle out how far they are willing to bend the rules to ensure a win, even a freshman tutor who was sexually molested by the star quarterback (but won't file a report). HELLO, #MeToo!. It's academics vs. football. It's money vs. integrity. It's a collision of cover-ups in this aggressive new play diving in to a world where players are pawns and the world stands still every Saturday afternoon. One per cent, 1%, of college football players get drafted. What about the other 99% left with a toilet paper degree?
Timely? You say timely? That's like timing and verifying the veracity of the bilge water spewing out of Trump's mouth. These are perilous times for both D 1 football and America. SANCTIONS parallels the hypocrisy and amorality on college campuses with that at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Clare (Catherine Slusar) has been a tutor for athletes in this Division 1 school for years. "I've cheated for them and inflated their grades". Now though, on the sunset side of her career, she's had an epiphany. Her colleague, Ronald (Edward O'Blenis) the ace recruiter for the team, is now at odds with her. He asks Clare, "do you want to win or not"!
Freshman tutor Abby (Susanne Collins) is introduced. A bookish, unglamorous wallflower, she is thrilled to get the job of working with the athletes in their 'sanctified', exclusive dorm. She determines that the quarterback was never diagnosed with dyslexia, ergo his academic problems through life. Because the boy was born a freak of nature and everyone knew he could turn pro, there was no need to worry about stupid studying.
Abby falls prey to the Qback's charms and becomes a survivor of sexual attack, adding yet another layer to what is happening in college sports today.
The 'conscience' of the school comes from Tonya (Kimberly S. Fairbanks). As a higher up in the administration, her mission is to change the culture. (See Don Quixote for the same success).
I wish to apologize to Delaware Theatre Company for the lateness of this review.
Up Next: Fully Committed - Oct 17 - Nov 4 This devastatingly funny show follows a day in the life of Sam, an out-of-work actor who mans the red-hot reservation line at Manhattan's number-one restaurant. Coercion, threats, bribes, histrionics-a cast of desperate callers will stop at nothing in their zeal to land a prime reservation or the right table. Amid the barrage, Sam's got his own needs to contend with. While juggling scheming socialites, name-dropping wannabes, fickle celebrities, and egomaniacal bosses, can he manage to look out for himself?