Half Straddle Runs a Trick Play
As NFL owners and the players' union struggle to reach an agreement, the prospect of a lockout looms over the 2011 season. Half Straddle's brash and loopy In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL proposes one solution: all-girl teams. This occasionally musical play at the Bushwick Starr features a distinctly distaff squad—five young women clad in shoulder-padded jerseys, tight white pants, and strictly non-regulation glittery eye shadow.
That writer-director Tina Satter should put ladies on the gridiron actually isn't much of a surprise. Her plays offer worlds populated entirely by women. (Well, almost entirely—I seem to recall one young man wandering the wards of last year's Nurses in New England, and the Pony Palace marching band boasts a few male members.) Satter's theatrical landscape is a dreamy, distractable place of side ponytails and chaste flirtation.
Pony Palace doesn't provide much in the way of plot. The quarterback (Jess Barbagallo) yearns for the attentions of a cheerleader (Emily Davis). A wide receiver (the narrow Erin Markey) tries to ingratiate herself with her new teammates. The assistant coach (Moe Angelos of the Five Lesbian Brothers) guns for her superior's job. The mascot (Kourtney Rutherford) misplaces her cell phone. Two games occur, yet the pigskin is rarely thrown and the few tackles look suspiciously like group hugs.
All of these events are rendered in Satter's peculiar and girlish argot. Attempting trash talk, one teammate calls the opposing side "puffball shortstuff pussywillows." Another claims, "I thank all higher sparkle powers because they are the root of my moves."
At just over an hour, Pony Palace is a relatively adorable way to pass an evening, but the lack of character development and narrative drive (or, for that matter, any down-the-field drives) wears thin. With its lax, episodic structure, the play doesn't end so much as cease. Satter's playful language, feminine sensibilities, and distinct environments show that she has the skills to play the theatrical game. But maybe it's time to get serious and try to score.
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