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Motion at Signal Ensemble Theatre | Theater review

Ronan Marra’s pro football tale examines the deals made in back rooms and locker rooms.

Photograph: Johnny Knight
Motion at Signal Ensemble Theatre

If the way God let Tim Tebow down and the tragic events at Penn State are any indication, the most dramatic arc of football happens off the field: heroes taking a fall. Ronan Marra’s new play about behind-the-scenes business at a small-market (read: losing) pro-football franchise aims at the sport’s myth- and deal-making, and mostly, it scores. It’s nearly the eve of the draft, and the Cleveland Rams have first pick, which is sure to be LSU’s star quarterback, Casey. For Drew, Casey’s agent, it’s a done deal, especially since Cleveland’s new GM, Diane, is Drew’s ex-wife. She has other ideas, as does the son of the franchise’s ailing owner—until an ill-advised incident involving the celebrated QB shakes up this unstable diagram.

Motion crackles with rapid-fire, in-the-know dialogue reminiscent of both SportsCenter and Aaron Sorkin. You don’t have to understand what a pay escalator is to enjoy the taut volleys and parries, especially those between Diane (Meredith Bell Alvarez, satisfyingly blunt) and Drew (Joseph McCauley, showing finely detailed smugness). While it’s an imaginative slice of a life that few truly know but many speculate about, the play trains perhaps too wide a lens on the sport and its dissipation at the expense of a deeper interrogation into what—beyond fame, cash and a championship ring—drives these characters and fuels our acceptance of the blamelessness of sports stars. As a smart and entertaining microcosm of an outsized industry, though, it wins.

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