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Julia Brownell shakes up classic family drama tropes in this story of a retired NFL player coaching his daughter to become the first professional female quarterback. logo
Meredith Forlenza and C.J. Wilson in All-American
(© Gregory Costanzo)
Julia Brownell shakes up classic family drama tropes, questioning gender stereotypes with her new one-act, All-American, an LCT3 production at The Duke on 42nd Street.

A recently retired NFL player, Mike Slattery (C.J. Wilson), struggles coaching his daughter, Katie (Meredith Forlenza) to become the first professional female quarterback as his marriage and body fall apart.

As the lights rise, the family has just relocated to Palo Alto, California so Katie can play on a better team, and the pressure is high. She's the son Mike never had. Aaron (Harry Zittel), Katie's twin, is the one he did have but struggles to relate to, as Aaron couldn't care less about sports.

Instead, he tries to get his father's attention with smartass quips that only end up distancing him. Aaron connects more with his Mom, Beth (Rebecca Creskoff), though he resents her new real estate business and wishes she were home to make them dinner.

Early scenes between Mike and Beth fall flat as they exchange clumsy exposition -- "you retired seven years ago!" -- but bold characters quickly emerge, especially with Katie and Aaron. At 17, the two characters are stuck between childhood and adulthood. Katie tries to live out her father's dream for her while Aaron rebels against any authority or organization from his father to his school's pep rally. Yet, as different as they are, the twins have a strong bond.

Some of the strongest scenes in the show, though, are between Aaron and an outcast classmate, Natasha (Sarah Steele), as they commiserate about their crappy lives and feelings of isolation. As the new kid, Aaron is unaware of Natasha's "untouchable" status, and she's shocked when he wants to hang out with her.

Brownell's writing here feels the most natural in the play, and the way her characters all more-or-less accept Katie aspiring to play pro-football is an interesting touch that creates many unanswered questions while avoiding becoming a simple polemic.

In fact, it's hard to boil All-American down to one idea. It's about obsession and how it can seep into every aspect of life (Lee Savage's football field set conveys this nicely) and how a father's ambition for his daughter can become dangerous, but it's also equally about searching for identity and the many inevitable stumbles along the way.

Directed seamlessly by Evan Cabnet, the scenes flow into each other building momentum, and like a fast-paced football game, it ends suddenly and thrillingly.

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