Life’s endless struggles — from the daily variety, like getting your mates to behave appropriately, to the emotionally cataclysmic, like the death of a loved one — such is the subject of Tom Wells’ Jumpers for Goalposts, now playing at the Studio Theatre.
John Stoltenberg’s review is here.
“What else is new?” you might ask. “Aren’t such struggles the subject of all theatre?” Well, yes … and no.
Wells walks us into a locker room, that place of male and female competition, or at least its before and after moments. His locker room is, however, inhabited by people defined, not by their high hopes and unlimited ambition and desire for success, but by their ordinary hopes and their oh so ordinary ambitions and desire for little success stories.
You will find no Hollywood mark on these characters’ foreheads, no expectation of glorious happy endings or of fame and fortune. Wells’ characters are rooted not in Rags to Riches or Manifest Destiny or American Exceptionalism, but in — how shall I say this? — a simple humanity that makes them shine like stars in a country sky — one of millions, perhaps, but stars nonetheless.
And that simple joy, with its multitude of sufferings and its lovely triumphs, infinitesimal in comparison yet brilliantly experienced, is what makes Jumpers for Goalposts an absolute delight.
Liam Forde (Luke), Kimberly Gilbert (Viv), Michael Glenn (Joe), Jonathan Judge-Russo (Beardy Geoff), and Zdenko Martin (Danny) are the five-member ensemble that brings this delightfully intimate portrait of human vulnerability to life on stage.
What one recognizes almost immediately about this collection of characters are their incredible flaws. In no way imaginable, are these characters idealized or romanticized.
Their flaws do not consist of the judgmental variety, however; they are all too human in shape and origin.
Luke is an unbearably shy, 19-year-old library worker, who lives at home but who wants more than anything to love. He joins the soccer team because he is unbearably attracted to Danny.v>
Danny is a young man in training to be a coach. A recent breakup has made him vulnerable; he cannot allow himself any more hurt.
Beardy has difficulty taking anything seriously; yet, a recent assault in an alley left him with a serious scar and doubts about his life.
Joe seems content just getting through the day. Approaching his 40th birthday, the recent death of the love of his life lingers in his memory.
Viv, the team’s tough-girl coach, is unable to bear witness to the death of her older sister, Joe’s wife.
They are, in a word, human beings, not the always happy, endlessly successful representations of humanity to whom we have grown so accustomed in American culture.
“Now,” you might say, “there are a lot of characters like these in America’s panorama of cultural representations.” Well yes … and no.
What’s so different about these characters is that they are given to us without condescension. Director Matt Torney, does not create a comical or farcical world for them to inhabit. And Wells does not taint them with condescension, as if to say “how could anyone love these misfits?”
Director and playwright, and actors, give us authenticity and sincerity, trusting most of all that the humanity of the characters will be the “entertainment” the theatregoing audience seeks.
That trust pays off in a remarkable production, one in which all the veneer of showbiz has been removed, one in which the simple grace of sharing an embrace, a hand, a kind word, or a supportive shoulder is miracle enough to give audiences hope for the future.
Jumpers for Goalposts plays through June 21, 2015 at Studio Theatre’s Metheny Theatre – 1501 14th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 332-3300, or purchase them online.