“The Football Play” at the Den Theatre is like when your attention-deprived five-year-old wants to put on a show in the living room. It’s incoherent and overloaded with misplaced energy. This experimental play conceived by Trent Creswell is loosely structured around the idea that theater is a lot like football. It’s an interesting concept to consider, but often the sketch-comedy style of this piece does not support this, or any argument.
It’s always nice to see young performers try something different, and even better still is to see homegrown efforts materialize. Unfortunately the biggest distraction of this show is the goofy, unpolished antics of the tight-knit cast featuring Creswell, David Seeber and Karly Bergmann. All three are amusing in their own ways, especially Seeber and Bergmann, but it seems like these actors have taken for granted the art of sketch comedy. Bergmann may be the best suited for this kind of work as most of the plentiful laughs are in her silliness.
Despite some pointless dance numbers, eventually these actors get vulnerable and address issues of creativity, apathy and the disappointments of pursuing a career in the arts. The exceedingly sensitive final monologues from each performer eventually connect the dots of the football theme. The universal theme (recently made popular by Lena Dunham) of being in your mid-twenties in this generation is at the core of “The Football Play,” and maybe if these collaborators would have mined that a little further this show would ultimately have been deeper. As most millennials have the tendency to do, there’s this apparent sense of fear in being entirely vulnerable and, in this case, overcompensated with irreverent humor and endless inside jokes that the audience is never privy to.
“The Football Play” does showcase some courage, but it comes too late in the game. While not uncreative, the show relies too much on weirdness for the sake of weirdness, which can only work if the context supports it. (John J. Accrocco)
At The Den Theatre, 1333 North Milwaukee, (773)609-2336. Through May 12.