Review: ‘Colossal’ at SF Playhouse (***)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: ***
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

In Andrew Hinderaker's "Colossal," actors in full athletic gear recreate an actual four-quarter football game onstage.
In Andrew Hinderaker’s “Colossal,” actors in full athletic gear recreate an actual four-quarter football game onstage.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Describing the genesis of his much celebrated play, playwright Andrew Hinderaker says that he was challenged by a mentor to “write a play so big, so bold, so seemingly impossible that theaters would be intimidated to put it on.” Something truly colossal.

To meet the challenge, Hinderaker created a piece that requires the recreation of a football game onstage, including a drumline, performed by athlete/dancer/actors, and a complex multilevel plot involving dramatic content ranging from gay sex on football teams, head injuries, loyalty and betrayal, fathers and sons, art versus sports, and more.

The result is the essence of a “hot mess.” (The urban dictionary defines “hot mess” as “a state of total disarray while still maintaining an undeniable attractiveness and allure.”)

Yes, it is exciting. The speed, the drums, the recreated football game, the setting of an actual football field — everything works. On the other hand, the over-stuffed plot, although entirely well meaning, is like a collision of several overly-earnest and overly-messaged made-for-TV movies-of-the-week from the 1970s.

Still, at a packed sixty-five minutes, it is hard to hate on this production. The excitement is palpable, the acting emotionally alive, the choreography beautiful, and the setting impressive.

It’s a mess. But it still maintains an undeniable attractiveness and allure.

“Colossal” plays at the San Francisco Playhouse through April 30, 2016. For further information, click here.

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“Colossal” by Andrew Hinderaker, produced by San Francisco Playhouse. Director: Jon Tracy. Dance Choreographer: Keith Pinto. Stunt Choreographer: Dave Maier. Set Designer: Bill English. Lighting Designer: Kurt Landisman. Sound Designer: Theodore J. H. Hulsker. Props Artisan: Jacquelin Scott. Costume Designer: Brooke Jennings. Projections Designers: Theodore J. H. Hulsker, Micah Stieglitz. Drum Team Percussion Orchestrator: Wiley Naman Strasser.

Cast: Mike: Jason Stojanovski. Coach: Dave Maier. Young Mike: Thomas Gorrebeeck. Marcus: Cameron Matthews. Jerry: Wiley Naman Strasser. Damon: Robert Parsons. Player #1: Xander Ritchey. Player #2: Brandon Leland. Player #3: Ed Berkeley. Player #4: Jacob Hsieh. Player #5: Brian Conway. Player #6: Travis Santell Rowland. Swing: Tim Hulls.

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