With a lot less, ‘Lefties’ could be so much more
|Saint Sebastian Players presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Saint Sebastian Players presents the world premiere of Lefties. It’s 1930’s in Youngstown, Ohio. Russian immigrants, Ivana and Vladimir, are raising their son during the Red Scare. Vladimir has been targeted as a rebel for advocating for union workers. His passionate appeal for social reform has labeled him a commie. The country’s anti-Russian sentiment makes his employment sustainability questionable. Still, he raises his son with a socialist philosophy and baseball fanaticism. The one American ideal that Vladmir believes without question is the sport of baseball. When his son, Alexi, becomes a star pitcher, prejudices threaten to destroy a family and a sports career. Lefties leans too far to the write.
Playwright Leigh Johnson went epic in this Russian tale. The father-son story at the core is a solid one. Unfortunately, Johnson buried it under a lot of well-crafted monologues. Characters fall into declarative speeches that lose meaning in the layers of text. Instead of authentic dialogue, it feels forced, contrived and often preachy. It’s too much! Under the energetic direction of Jamie Prahl, the likable cast plow through the heavy-duty material. Evan Voboril (Vladimir) is a fervent patriot. Because of his strong vocal convictions, Voboril’s contrasting playful interactions with his wife and son are surprisingly touching moments. The maternal Megan Faye Izzo (Ivana) playing an other-worldly narrator brings the heart. The character of Alexi is played by two charming actors. A sweet, high-pitched Daniel Pass is the adorable kid version. And the twinkly-eyed and dimple-smiling Matthew Beard is the charismatic adult model.
The entire huge cast give off a community feel that transcends the play. There seems to be a shared history among these Saint Sebastian Players. They are enjoying playing together in this production. And Johnson has given everyone a moment in the spotlight.
But it’s just is too much! The plethora of political rhetoric gets in the way of connecting with the true story. The essences of this play is a father-son unable to communicate except through baseball. The relatable parent-child and parent-adult child is the thought-provoking stuff that engages on a monumental level. It could be epic without being epic. With a lot less, Lefties could be so much more.
Lefties continues through March 10th at St. Bonaventure Church, 1625 W. Diversey (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $15, and are available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or going to BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SaintSebastianPlayers.org. (Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by John Oster
Daniel Pass (Alexi as a child), Matthew Beard (adult Alexi), Evan Voboril (Vladimir), Megan Faye Izzo (Ivana), Jacob Abbas, Robert Dean, Ned Ricks, Steven Walanka, Derrick Marshall, Reginald Vaughn
behind the scenes
Jamie Prahl (director), Lauren Angelopoulos (set), Jerica Hucke (costumes), Eric Vigo (lighting), Jim Masini (props), Tom Jasek (sound), Beth E. Bruins (stage manager), Jonathan “Rocky” Hagloch (producer), John Oster (photos)