High school football is more than just a sport in Indiana, it's a way of life.
When I graduated from North Judson-San Pierre High School in 1988, the name of Russ Radtke, head football coach and famed for his wishbone offense formation earned acclaim that took our team to the state championship. And as expected, his young son Bo Radtke was groomed to be a quarterback one day, an eventually, also an assistant coach for his father.
So imagine the even increased pressure of having a father who is a former NFL star quarterback with the bling of a Super Bowl ring.
Director Scott Weinstein tackles this, the game of football and parenting paradox in Redtwist Theatre's Chicago stage premiere of "All-American" written by Julia Brownell now playing until Sept. 9.
It is staged inside an intimate ring of just 50-plus seats (give or take) in the tiny performance space at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, on Chicago's North Side.
Told as a brisk 90-minute, no intermission tale, it stars Andrew J. Pond as Mike, a football obsessed former NFL star who hails from a tiny town in Indiana and is desperate to re-capture former glory. Along with his wife Beth, played wonderfully here by Kimberly Logan, the couple's high school age twins happen to be brother and sister opposites in many ways.
The "All-American" of this play's title is Katie, played by Bryce Gangel, a 17-year old high-school quarterback encouraged by her hard-driving father, who is less-interested in withdrawn yet witty son Aaron played by Matt Edmonds. Dad is determined his daughter will be the first woman to play college and pro ball. Emotions explode and family roles are dissected during some very intricate and interesting exchanges unfolded within a family desperately looking for their own inner peace, focus and happiness following a recent move to California.
Edmonds is superb as a son trapped by expectations and hidden emotions, while Logan's performance as a mother miserable with her lackluster likelihood in the future is emotionally raw and real. Pond seems appropriately bent on perfection for his family and just the tone of his line delivery sets the mood of who his character is, inside and out. Gangel's casting is a little less credible as a hardened high school athlete able to "tear up" a football field. Michael Bartz has a brief role as a fellow high school football star and actress Annie Sauter delivers a nice turn as a high school friend trapped by the moment.
Garvin Jellison offers apt lighting design with Daniel Carlyon's polished sound Design. Olivia Leah Baker captures the needed costuming, while Will Allan serves as football coach and consultant.
But the end of this tale, everyone learns a lesson or two, including the audience, who after 90 minutes with this solid talent, feels like part of the huddle and eager for the next play.
Performances are 3 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. Tickets are $20, with an additional $5 off for seniors and students. FYI: (773) 728-7529 or redtwist.org. There's plenty of meter street parking. Best to reserve seats 48 hours in advance. Credit cards accepted by phone and online to guarantee tickets.