Acclaimed Boxing Drama 'The Opponent' in New York Premiere at Off-Broadway's 59E59

By Jon Sobel on Jul 29, 2014 02:20 PM EDT

The Opponent, Brett Neveu's play about the hardscrabble world of boxing, begins performances July 31 at Off-Broadway's 59E59 Theaters after an acclaimed run at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago.

Karen Kessler helmed the the Chicago production in 2012 and returns to again direct Kamal Angelo Bolden (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Victory Gardens) as handsome and graceful young boxer Donell Fuseles, and Guy Van Swearingen (The Time of Your Life at Steppenwolf) as jaded gym owner-trainer and former fighter Tremont "Tre" Billiford. Both actors are reprising their roles.

"They come from different worlds," say the press notes, "they barely understand each other, but in the ring anything is possible."

Chicago Sun-Times theater critic Hedy Weiss wrote that Bolden and Van Swearingen bring "as much emotional intelligence to the work as formidable physical skills" and characterized the two-hander as "thrillingly visceral" and "a superb blend of physical and psychological warfare." The Chicago Tribune called it "a great new play that dances, parries and, most important, lands some killer punches."

Bolden, Van Swearingen, Neveu and Kessler are all ensemble members of A Red Orchid Theatre, which has presented new plays and revivals since 1993. Neveu, also the author of Megacosm, 4 Murders and twentyone, wrote the role of Tre specifically for Van Swearingen, the company's founding artistic director.

The playwright explained that The Opponent not only "seeks to understand the profession of 'boxer' and the toll that the profession takes on the body, mind and soul" but "also discusses themes outside the ring; themes of fathers and sons, individual responsibility and how protecting one's pride can damage those one professes to care about."

The damage in New York lasts until September 7, when the limited engagement at 59E59 is scheduled to end.

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TagsBoxing, The Opponent, Off-Broadway, 59E59 Theater, 59E59, Chicago, A Red Orchid Theatre

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