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  The Opponent Reviews
The Opponent
The Opponent

The Opponent
A Red Orchid Theatre
Thru - Dec 15, 2012

Show Information


A Red Orchid Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"..."The Opponent" also is a showcase for one of those off-Loop actors who have been around for ever but have now reached the point where they're ready to really knock some demons to the floor. And so it goes here with Guy Van Swearingen, who sweats, grunts and flails for nearly two hours, trying to better the much younger actor Kamal Angelo Bolden (the star of 2009's wrestling play "Chad Deity" at Victory Gardens), who is built like a very lean prizefighter and who acts with the confidence of an ambitious man in love with his own charm."
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Chris Jones



Chicago Sun Times- Highly Recommended

"...This terrifically muscular production, which opened Monday night under the rope-a-dope direction of Karen Kessler — and is punched out to perfection by actors Kamal Angelo Bolden and Guy Van Swearingen — is a superb blend of physical and psychological warfare. It would be difficult to imagine a better rendering of Neveu's insightful, glove-tight tale of two men whose dreams of success are undermined by their innate sense of failure that morphs into self-fulfilling prophecy."
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Hedy Weiss



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...Bring your hankies, all you manly-men-not just for mopping up big-boy tears, but for the testosterone fumes spurring you to jump into the ring yourself. What this tough/tender tale may lack in originality, it more than redeems in the visceral thrill engendered by live performance in a space as small as Red Orchid's alleyway storefront. Kamal Angelo Bolden (whom audiences may recall as the title character in Victory Gardens in The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity) is in top athletic form for the role of Donell, while company regular Guy Van Swearingen, a real-life ex-firefighter, lends the phlegmatic Tre a sturdy stoicism. Technical consultant Alfonso Ortiiz has instructed his actors thoroughly in the minutiae of the sweet science, while director Karen Kessler and fight designer John Tovar ascertain that text and fists tango skin-tight for every minute of the play's two 45-minute rounds."
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Mary Shen Barnidge



Centerstage- Somewhat Recommended

"... Overall it’s a well-crafted play that feels real. There’s no doubt about Neveu’s talent; his light touches are laudable. Throughout the show there’s palpable tension brewing right beneath the surface, but more must come up for air before it packs the winning punch."

Kristin Walters



ShowBizChicago- Highly Recommended

"...Not since The Gin Game has there been such a remarkable theatrical piece for two actors and Mr. Van Swearingen and Mr. Bolden will forever be remembered for creating these characters for decades to come."

Michael Roberts



Chicago On the Aisle- Highly Recommended

"... One guy in the boxing ring, the black guy, is young, quick, cocky – a regular Muhammad Ali in the making. The other figure, a white guy, is the trainer, an ex-prize fighter who got close to the big time but never quite cut it. They are the shared substance and tragic sum of Brett Neveu’s devastating new play “The Opponent,” now answering its world premiere bell at A Red Orchid Theatre."
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Lawrence B. Johnson



Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Neveu's play is solidly in the noir tradition of boxing stories—a grubby and brutal lifestyle which extracts a toll from fighters who aren't good enough to ascend to a champion's glamorous life. There are no surprises in The Opponent, as we know early on that Tre, claiming his gym is a beehive of activity for up-and-coming fighters, is hiding the emptiness of his life; his brash façade scarcely conceals the hollow man within, and it is clear that he has no life outside the gym. Donell's early self-confidence marks him as a man riding for a fall, and sure enough, his pride and exuberance from the first act have collapsed into a weary and resentful acceptance that life as a boxer hasn‘t worked out for him; his dreams have withered into a bleak present and a future that promises nothing."
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Dan Zeff



ChicagoCritic- Highly Recommended

"...two elements make The Opponent a terrific play. Brett Neveu's writing is filled with restrained truths expounded by the wise Tre and the cocky, self-assured Donell. Among the boxing action are telling observations about more than the boxing world both occupy. The outstanding work by Kamal Angelo Bolden both physically and emotionally was most effective but the fully realized and deeply wrenching performance by Guy Van Swearingen as the salty former boxer turned trainer and gym owner was extremely honest. His work as a Chicago Fire lieutenant keeps in in enough shape to his physically demanding role. These two offer mesmerizing performances that beg to be seen. The Opponent is another example of the fabulous work that the little Equity storefront theatre on Wells street - A Red Orchid constantly produces."
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Tom Williams



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Highly Recommended

"...Guy Van Swearingen (Tre) and Kamal Angelo Bolden (Donell) are a couple of pros that pack a wallop. They act like boxers. They move like boxers. They totally transform into these characters. On the surface, Van Swearingen is the wise teacher and Bolden is the cocky student. But their stories are below the surface and we piece together the complexity of the characters in what they are saying and what they are not saying. I've never seen anything like this. It's exactly like being at training and watching the drills and listening to the chat. They go several rounds physically and verbally fighting. It is exhausting and impressive."
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Katy Walsh



Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...A powerhouse of a story, directed so smoothly, you will not feel that you are watching a play, but instead, have taken down the fourth wall and are in Rock and Anvil Gym in Lafayette,Louisiana. Every little piece of this production is perfect. Joe Court's sound, Mike Durst's lighting design, the costumes by Myron Elliott and teh amazing props ( and there were a lot) by Toni Kendrick and the boxing instructions by Al Ortiz. This may be a two person play, but to make it as special as it is took an army of players, each doing their job to perfection. Of great importance for you to know- you do not have to be a boxing fan to enjoy this production, only someone who loves great theater!"
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Alan Bresloff