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Review: A Part of the Game (Curious Theatre Branch)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: A Part of the Game (Curious Theatre Branch)   
A Part of the Game 

Written and Directed by Matt Rieger
at A House Unbuilt, 1802 W. Berteau (map)
thru June 2  |  tickets: $12-$15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



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Review: A Part of the Game (Curious Theatre Branch)


Curious Theatre Branch presents


A Part of the Game

Review by Anuja Vaidya

Few experiences can ignite passion and inspire a sense of camaraderie the way a sporting event can. Even for those of us who do not follow sports regularly, or who claim to not give two hoots about the latest game, can’t help feeling a smidgen of pride when we hear that our home team – whatever home that may be – won a game.  While A Part of the Game attempts to give us a sense of what sports means to individuals and even communities, its fragmented structure makes it less impactful than it could be.

The play is structured as a series of monologues about different experiences in the world of sports – some thrilling, some humbling and some just plain embarrassing. Each of the monologues is well written and captivating. The stories are intertwined, which helps sustain the momentum of the show. Perhaps one of the best monologues of the night is the story told by a man about his hometown’s legendary win at a basketball game. While it follows the common plotline of the scrappy underdogs pulling a victory over the favored-to-win rivals, it is told with just the right degree of nostalgia and thrill. None of the monologues are dramatized per se (although one set of stories is told as a dialogue between two characters), but the high-energy and thoroughly natural performances are enough to bring the stories to life.

However, the fact that this production has strong individual storylines doesn’t make up for the lack of an overall structure and some very random sequences. While each of the stories is sports-related, at some points the "sports-angle" feels tacked on. For example, one set of stories is essentially about bullying. Outside of the fact that a baseball bat and a football are involved, they don’t really have anything to do with being a sportsman.

Another set of random sequences is the use of a video, projected on a wall, of a coach giving advice and pep talks to his team – presumably the cast. While it has endearing moments, it’s not clear why the video is used. Why not have the coach perform live onstage? Also, his sequences aren’t really related to the rest of the production. Are all these characters friends who are in the coach’s basketball team? This is never made clear to us.

Additionally, all the characters dunk the basketball and play on the basketball court at one point or another, but some of their stories are about different sports. And, the play ends with all but one of the characters sitting around the basketball-court stage talking. The projector is also used to show us pictures related to the monologues while they are being performed. This feels like an unnecessary addition to the show and is quite jarring at times. This doesn’t really add to the monologues, particularly because they are generic pictures of sports fields, schools and even crowds cheering.

The stories of these characters at the heart of the production are endearing and entertaining. The performers do a nice job at bringing them to life in simple but heartfelt ways. But it feels as though certain decisions in terms of dramatization were taken for no real reason, as it does not enhance the stories in anyway. With some reworking, this could be an intriguing look into the way sports has the ability to bring out the best and worst in us. As it stands, it has too many distracting elements and too little cohesion.


Rating: ★★



A Part of the Game continues through June 2nd at A House Unbuilt, 1802 W. Berteau (map), with performances Saturdays and Sundays at 7pm.  Tickets are $12-$15, and are available online through (check for half-price tickets at More info at  (Running time: 70 minutes without intermission)

Review: A Part of the Game (Curious Theatre Branch)

Photos by Rodolfo Polanco




Brian Collins, Chloe Johnston, Matt Rieger, Beau O’Reilly, John Starrs, Julia Williams

behind the scenes

Matt Rieger (director), Jenny Kim (set design ), Chloe Honeyman-Bloede (lighting), Jayita Bhattacharya (choreography), Jeffrey Bivens (video), Rodolfo Polanco (photos); Marlana May Carlson (stage management)


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