What do a nurse, a law student, and a tattoo artist all have in common?
Answer: They all love roller derby.
They love the adrenaline rush, the competition, the strategies, and their teammates. Outside of the rink they’re completely different people. On the rink they unite. FOR THE LOVE OF (OR, THE ROLLER DERBY PLAY) explores this sport, what unites a unique group of women, and what it means to truly love something. For one woman in particular, joining the team means taking a hard look at what she wants out of life.
Pride Arts and Films Creates a Roller Rink in a Theater
Set in the small and intimate Buena theater, the space is transformed into a roller derby rink and locker room. Music is blasting from the speakers as audience members take their seats. It feels like any other sporting event. The room fills with haze as the lights dim and the roller derby women take the stage, decked out in helmets and protective gear.
They dance and move in a frenzy to the pumping music and then freeze, as one woman, Lizzie Lightning, explains the rules of roller derby. We learn there are jammers who score points, while the rest of the team members are blockers. Blockers help the jammer score points while also trying to prevent the opposing team from scoring points.
FOR THE LOVE OF Explores Different Relationships
Then we are introduced to Joy. New to the Brooklyn Scallywags team, she is eager to fit in and is enamored with her idol, Lizzie Lightning. At home, Joy lives with her college girlfriend and artist, Michelle. The two are supportive of each other when Michelle gets a promotion and Joy is loving roller derby. It seems everything is working out just fine. Then, Michelle loses her job and wants to move out of state for new opportunities.
Joy is faced with the task of deciphering what her heart wants - does she follow Michelle and leave her team behind? Or, does she stay in Brooklyn because of the team and Lizzie? What does she want out of life?
In between learning about Joy and Michelle’s relationship, we also find out bits and pieces about the other players on the team. Each woman has an individual moment dedicated to a snapshot of her life outside of roller derby - working the night shift, or at home with her second husband, or giving a valedictorian speech. They’re all a part of different walks of life. Roller derby, however, connects them all.
In the end, Joy’s decision doesn’t come easy to her. It has its ups and downs just like a roller derby contest, and we go along for the ride.
Heart-pounding Action and Excitement
Everything about this play is explosive, loud, and fun. The storyline is dramatic and full of emotions. We are engaged the entire time. This reviewer would have preferred if the book gave more foreshadowing of who the character Joy is at the play’s end and what she is searching for. Otherwise, the play moves smoothly as it follows each of the teammates’ lives.
The set design by Elyse Balogh is amazingly creative in the small theater space. It works perfectly as the setting changes from out on the rink, to the locker room, to Joy and Michelle’s apartment. Though it can feel a bit cramped at times when all nine cast members are on stage, you feel the excitement of sitting rinkside at a roller derby where you have to watch your toes!
Director Rachel Edwards Harvith has assembled a talented and diverse cast of characters who transform into the unique characters of a complex roller derby team. Alex Dauphin and Kenzie Seibert playing Joy and Michelle respectively, grab us into the the ups and downs of their relationship.
The rest of the cast is equally fun— from the bright lipped Diaz de Los Muertos played by Amanda Raquel Martinez, to the stressed out Prosecute Her played by Savannah Cannistraro, to the sassy Anna -Stecia played by Deanna Reed-Foster. All of them paint a vibrant picture of the world of this roller derby team.
FOR THE LOVE OF is a play full of wide ranging emotions. It’s about finding out what makes your heart beat and following your own path.
This show is good to see if you like seeing fast-paced shows that are about out-of-the-box topics like roller derby. Get ready for a roller coaster of emotions and a fun ride.
Now through April 16
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
The Buena at Pride Arts Center
4147 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60613
PFP’s $10 Access Tickets for students, senior, or others who cannot afford full price tickets are available for each performance on an honor system.
Purchase tickets at www.pridefilmsandplays.com or by calling 1.800.737.0984.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read: Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
Note: Also, an excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.