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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Changing Room

Photo: Daniel Terna

TheChanging Room, by David Storey, is not big on plot. A bunch of Englishmen enter a locker room, kid around, change, and go out to play rugby--Act One.  The owner of the team comes into the locker room and talks with the attendant until the rugby players, now bruised and bleeding, return, banter, attend to their bruises, then go back out to play; soon one of them is brought back in, blood streaming from his nose, unable to see--Act Two. After the game, the players banter some more, pick on a (possibly gay?) team member, talk with the owner, worry about the injured player, and leave--Act Three. There's no main character, no conflict of the traditionally theatrical sort, no recognizable arc. There is, however, meaning. The players are mostly working men, putting their bodies on the line. The owner, Sir Frederick, attempts to be one of the guys, but he is too falsely avuncular, too patronizing, and too damned clean to fit in. More importantly, he is the boss, the owner, and as such, he is the other--the lucky, wealthy, aristocratic other. In this microcosm of class in England, it's not just boss versus worker: when one of the players is revealed to be dating a teacher, the rest of the team is incredulous, wanting to know what on earth the couple would talk about. The play also examines how men do and don't bond, how they present themselves to each other, and how they find significance in their lives.

While all of this is theoretically interesting, it is not theatrically interesting--a big difference. However, the T. Schreiber production, directed by Terry Schreiber himself, is excellent, as T. Schreiber productions generally are. The performers, many of them T. Schreiber students, are uniformally effective; the set is evocative and impressive; the costuming and lighting and sound are all first-class. The nudity is a little awkwardly handled--full frontal would have been more realistic, and less distracting, then the careful turning away and hiding of genitalia, accompanied by the nervous checking that towels are secure. All in all, however, this production of The Changing Room is a very strong production of a not-so-strong play.

(Press ticket, third-row-center.)

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