Requiem for a Heavyweight | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Requiem for a Heavyweight 

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REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, Profiles Performance Ensemble, at Red Bones Theatre. Rod Serling was one of those writers who turned trash into art. He could create a powerful, resonant play out of all the ingredients of hackwork: a melodramatic premise (likable dumb-hick boxer at the end of his career is sold out by a greedy manager), stock characters (bartenders named Charlie, wise guys with Italian surnames, women whose love redeems fallen protagonists), and "serious messages" seemingly lifted from other, better works ("I coulda been somebody," "You don't throw a man away like an orange peel"). Requiem for a Heavyweight, which he wrote for Playhouse 90 in the mid-50s and which was revived as a stage play in the mid-80s, would have been a painful work in the hands of a less expert writer. But thanks to Serling's gift for finding the surprising facet to the shopworn cliche, the play is moving.

But not when its two key roles--the boxer and the manager--are as badly miscast as they have been in this Profiles Performance Ensemble production. Darrell Christopher, with Silly Putty on his nose and a dumb-guy voice right out of "Fractured Fairy Tales," makes a ludicrous boxer. Joe Jahraus as the manager is no better; he plays him with all the macho conviction of George Bush asking a truck-stop waitress for "just a splash" of coffee. Together they cripple what could have been a good play. Why they were cast in the first place is something only the directors of the show--Christopher (!) and Jahraus (!)--can answer.

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