BWW Review: BALLS at 59E59 Theaters is a Must-See Production
"You love tennis because there's just one ball to think about."
By Billie in Balls
Balls, an exciting and ingenious production, is now being performed at 59E59 Theaters through February 25. Written by Kevin Armento and Bryony Lavery, it is directed by Ianthe Demos and Nick Flint with movement direction by Natalie Lomonet. This is a stunning show that creatively portrays the infamous tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King and situations surrounding it.
In Balls, it is 1973 and 55-year old tennis champion and grandstander, Bobby Riggs is facing off against Billie Jean King, the 29 year-old women's tennis star. The $100,000 winner-takes-all exhibition match is being held at the Houston Astrodome with 90 million television viewers around the world watching.
The show presents an energetic, realistic depiction of this "Battle of the Sexes" match point by point. The narrative cleverly integrates other characters besides Riggs and King that include umpires, fans, sports personalities, clowns, a ball boy, a ball girl, King's husband Larry and her hairdresser, Marilyn. While the production is colorful, lively and entertaining, it also does an excellent job of exploring the serious topics of sexism, a woman's right to choose, and gender equality, issues for our times.
The company of Balls is a dream team. Leading the cast is Donald Corren as Bobby and Ellen Tamaki as Billie. They master the portrayal of their intense characters along with each play of the fast-moving tennis match. The talented troupe rounds out the story and provides revealing background. They include Danny Bernardy as Terry/Umpire; Alex J. Gould as Ballboy; Dante Jeanfelix as Larry/Jim; Zakiya Iman Markland as Marilyn; Olivia McGiff as Clowngirl; Elisha Mudly as Ballgirl/Chris; Cristina Pitter as Cherry/Umpire; and Richard Saudek as Clownboy/Tennis Coach.
The Creative team has done an excellent job of bringing the style of the 1970's to life along with a dynamic tennis court setting. They include sound design by Brendan Aanes; lighting design by Mike Riggs; scenic design by Kristen Robinson; costume design by Kenisha Kelly; and properties design by Jodi Bobrovsky. The Tennis Coach is Richard Saudek; Dramaturg is Jessica Kaplow Applebaum; NYC Production Manager & Technical Director is Sean Gorsky; and the Production Stage Manager is Katherine Shelton.
Balls is a must-see show. Gather your group and come courtside to see Riggs vs King. Experience the epic sports event and its social impact that has gone well beyond the world of tennis.
Balls is produced by One Year Lease Theater Company and Stages Repertory Theatre. The show runs for approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. It is being performed for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 25 at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues). The performance schedule is Tuesday - Friday at 7 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 7 PM; and Sunday at 2 PM. Single tickets are $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at http://www.59e59.org/.
Photo Credit: Russ Rowland