Monday, August 17, 2015
"MY LIFE IN SPORTS" IS ACHINGLY GOOD
by Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Ryan Fagan
Bill Epstein looks back in "My Life in Sports."
Without question, the absolutely most powerful piece of theater I have ever seen is “My Life in Sports,” as written and performed by Bill Epstein, now playing through Aug. 22 at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
Beautifully written and touchingly performed, as directed by Sabian Trout the work is so heartfelt it left me speechless. It isn't about sports.
Well, there are some sports moments in it, stories of guys playing ball in the park and stuff, but “My Life in Sports” is really about life – about how life never turns out to be anything like you imagine it will.
And it is about acceptance, both bitter and sweet.
Paradise is in there, too. That total happiness of storybook feelings which can fill your heart with sublime realities you never dared believe possible.
All this and all the shades of emotion in between come pouring out of Epstein's deep recollections of memories from his life between age eight and now, some 60 years later.
By day Epstein is a college professor of English. Some stories are of his earlier faculty years at Purdue University, others of his time at the University of Arizona, where he presently teaches. There's a story, too, about the year he failed out of medical school.
Through his decades of growing, learning, trying to forget and trying to learn more, Epstein always loved to play sports, especially basketball and baseball. He wasn't a great athlete. He was one of those guys who fill the church leagues in winter at the Y and summer evenings under the lights on a city sandlot diamond.
He just loved to play.
What Epstein is great at is telling these stories from his life. Sure we get his guy stories, moments of a timely score or some rewarding teamwork for a greater goal. Or the time he was a husband who had to choose between playing in an important game and staying home to satisfy his family.
But what we remember are his other stories, about falling in love, starting a family, being responsible, then suddenly in mid-life meeting that one magical person. The kind whose love becomes worthy of a big screen movie – pushing all the properly rational thoughts about the proper thing to do right out of sight.
In the program notes, Epstein says “My Life in Sports” is a memory play. A culmination of memories, really, where the thrill of hitting a long ball when you are 12 is matched up against the jolt in your 40s of seeing a pretty face that stops your heart in its tracks.
That kind of memory play.
There are no other actors involved. The stage set is very spare. Mostly it is Epstein in an informal, friendly voice telling these stories.
The empty spaces are filled in with your own experiences from your own life, your own loves and family members and the times when you were a kid, riding your bike around the neighborhood, with a ball glove hanging from the handlebars.
“My Life in Sports” continues through Aug. 22 at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd., with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, also 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 ($14 Thursday only), with $2 discounts for students, military and seniors 62+. For details and reservations, 327-4242, www.livetheatreworkshop.org