boxing

‘The Set-Up’: punch-drunk on stage

Poetry and fancy footwork enter the ring with Cygnet's adaptation of a Jazz Age rhyming narrative about the world of boxing

King Lear rose from his seat at the end of the sharply choreographed brawl that is The Set-Up, looked around the heath, smiled broadly and said, “I love this theater community. People will try anything.”

He was hardly alone. The enthusiasm was contagious Friday night in the seats surrounding Tim Stapleton’s boxing ring of a set in the little warehouse space of Shaking the Tree. Of course, the opening night house was packed with friends of the theater – in this case, Cygnet Productions, which is producing this newly adapted stage version of Joseph Moncure March‘s 1928 free-for-all of an epic poem – but I have the sense that a house full of strangers might have felt much the same. Or maybe not, because a lot of the show’s pleasure is in the way it plays around with theatrical conventions, updating and refreshing approaches that might seem buried in the past, and who better than a theatrical audience to appreciate something like that? Then again, the audience is no dummy. And whether this sort of fight club’s your bottle of liniment oil or not, it’s easy to see the thing packs a pretty good punch and is quick on its feet.

Pansy (Bobby Bermea) gets a breather between rounds after absorbing a beating. Photo: Owen Carey

Pansy (Bobby Bermea) gets a breather between rounds after absorbing a beating. Photo: Owen Carey

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