Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
This month, Majestic Repertory Theatre offers the area premiere of Tight End, Rachel Bykowski's riveting new play about a high school girl determined to play varsity football. Not surprisingly, she faces significant barriers. Through sheer grit, she conquers the physical challenges. But the social, cultural, and psychological obstacles prove more daunting.
The script is tight and compelling, with plenty of humor to leaven the intensity. If the dialogue is slightly ponderous at times, this is a minor flaw in a play that manages to be gripping and charming at the same time.
Bykowski could not ask for a better team. The cast is stellar, and director Troy Heard once again proves that not only can he bring out the best in his actors, he also has a special gift for working with youth.
McKenna Castro is Ash Miller, the aspiring tight end whose single-minded determination proves to be a double-edged sword. It propels her onward, enabling her to achieve what no one thought possible. Yet her drive has a dark side as well. While Castro's relative lack of stage experience has her rushing her opening monologue, she finds her footing quickly in the scenes that follow. Even in Ash's most intense bouts of youthful angst, Castro's mastery of teenage body language and facial expressions is a hoot.
The equally young and talented Miles Nelson plays Sam Jones, the teammate whose initial resistance to Ash gives way to respect, and ultimately guilt at his role in her betrayal. Jones has a natural stage presence and brings depth and dimension to his character's growing pains.
As Ash's blue-collar mother Darla, newcomer Cristina Florea gives an astonishingly raw, authentic performanceindeed, one of the most compelling performances of the year. And somehow, she makes it seem effortless. The Darla we see is both strong and brokenshe wears her Walmart vest like a suit of armor.
Adam Martinez brings deft comic timing to the role of Coach D. If not quite a walking cliché, Coach D is fond of spouting "You've got hustle" and other cringeworthy aphorisms. Yet Martinez never surrenders to being cartoonish, and manages to bring warmth and depth to his character. The scenes between Florea and Martinez crackle with life.
Tight End, through March 24, 2019 at the Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 S. Main St., Las Vegas NV. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. For tickets ($25 general admission) and further information, visit www.majesticrepertory.com.