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THEATER REVIEW For the Love Of (or, the Roller Derby Play)
by David Mccann
2017-03-29

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Playwright: Gina Femia. At: The Buena Theatre at The Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway. Tickets: 800-737-0984

How much will a young woman surrender in order to make her dreams come true?

That's the question explored by Gina Femia in her all-female drama, set primarily at a New York roller rink, where the Brooklyn Scallywags regularly practice. New team member Joy Ride ( feisty, agile Alex Dauphin ) has found her niche by joining the best women's roller derby squad in the Tri-State area. Reluctantly, she moved from her Brooklyn stomping grounds to New Jersey to set up housekeeping with her partner, Michelle, ( a sparkling Kenzie Seibert ). As the couple's breadwinner, Michelle works long hours in interior design, while Joy spends her evenings at the rink. Rarely seeing each other, their relationship quickly becomes strained.

Within the sweaty, bruising world of the roller rink, Joy must first prove her skill to her no-nonsense coach, Andrea ( Lauren Goode ), and then to the rest of her teammates. Before long she becomes a headliner and is given more trust and responsibility. Star athlete Lizzie Lightning, the team's famed roller-derby queen—played with ferocity and likable bravado by Erica Hernandez—meets her challenge. Eventually, however, the two become close as the rest of the team grows jealous.

Predictably, Joy and Michelle's domestic stress begins to outweigh their happiness. As troubles mount at home, Joy increasingly seeks the solace of the rink, along with more attention and companionship with Lizzie. It's no surprise when the two athletes evolve into their own, somewhat strained relationship. When Joy expresses a desire to move back to Brooklyn, to be closer to the rink and possibly to Lizzie, Michelle counters with her own proposal to relocate the couple to Oregon, where a new, better-paying job awaits her. That's when complications begin.

Femia's not a brand-new playwright, but her current offering is a little disappointing. There are very few surprises and the story is as predictable as it is melodramatic. That doesn't mean it's not an entertaining two hours, but savvy audiences will see the plot twists coming a mile away.

Amidst Elyse Balogh's simple but effective set design, Rachel Edwards Harvith directs her talented ensemble with compassion and confidence. Standout performances come from supporting players Amanda Raquel Martinez, Savannah Cannistraro, Emily Marso, Tricia Rogers and, especially, Deanna Reed-Foster. Christopher Young's robust, athletic choreography provides the look and feel of roller derby skating with nary a wheel in sight.


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