BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
It is surprising that Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 program chose to produce “All-American.” After only three seasons, viewers are accustomed to seeing this admirable series present fairly adventurous fare created by newcomer playwrights.
The author, Julia Brownell, undoubtedly displays considerable promise. But her play, “All-American,” which opened on Monday at The Duke on 42nd Street space, is a very conventional piece that would be more effectively rendered as a Lifetime channel-style movie.
The straightforward story regards a nice contemporary family whose dad, Mike (C.J. Wilson), is a retired professional football player still obsessed with the game.
The 40-something Mike’s pride and joy is his teen daughter Katie (Meredith Forlenza), who is the star quarterback at her high school. Mike more or less ignores Katie’s twin brother Aaron (Harry Zittel), who has little interest in sports.
Mike also tends to ignore his forbearing wife Beth (Rebecca Creskoff) until he begins pestering her to make another baby – and hopefully another gridiron champion. Her refusal leads to a crisis in their marriage. The fallout spreads to Aaron and, more critically, Katie, which leads to further trauma.
Rather than studying Katie’s pressured existence as the only girl on the football team or probing deeper into Mike’s character, the playwright looks more at the relationship casually developing between Aaron and Natasha (Sarah Steele), a vaguely troubled classmate.
The 90-minute play’s mild conclusion is something of an easy cop-out.
While “All-American” proves to be merely mediocre TV barely disguised as undistinguished theater, Brownell writes crisp dialogue that reflects the characters appropriately. The casually profane teen-speak that Brownell confects sounds especially accurate.
Neatly constructed in 13 scenes plus an epilogue, the play relates its story concisely. The major trouble here is simply that the drama goes nowhere especially interesting and the dramaturgical format is awfully commonplace.
Director Evan Cabnet gives the play a solid production with good performances and modest but effective visuals.
Let’s look forward to seeing new works of greater ambition in the remainder of LCT3’s season.
“All-American” continues through Nov 19 at The Duke of 42nd Street, 229 W. 42nd St., New York. Call (646) 223-3010 or visit www.lct3.org.