PROVO – While theatre companies around the nation have shuttered their doors, An Other Theater Company has joined the trend of streaming shows online. Although the COVID-19 global pandemic forced AOTC to cancel their production of Trifles/A Number, the company acted quickly to provide another offering that can be watched from the comfort of your home. Directed by Kacey Spadafora, Richard D. Sheridan’s one man show, Odd Shaped Balls, is a great choice for online streaming due to its cast of one, simple set and intimate story. Odd Shaped Balls is the fourth streaming show that UTBA has reviewed during this time of quarantine, and will not likely be the last.
James Hall (played by Colter Lee Brown) is the star rugby player for the Chiltren Colts. Hall is also a closeted gay man who has battled with this taboo throughout his entire life and career. When news of Hall’s secret boyfriend hits Twitter, he must navigate this new public life and the emotional impact it has on him, including telling his beloved girlfriend. As Hall works to accept himself and redefine his definition of love, Odd Shaped Balls offers a message of acceptance and that a person’s sexuality is not a story.
Brown is vulnerable in his story telling and carefully paints a visual picture for the viewer, despite being viewed through a screen. Brown plays several characters to communicate the story and he is skilled at quickly switching back and forth between them. He is able to embody the different personalities through varying accents, phrasing and physicality. At the beginning of the play, Brown uses small costume changes to indicate some of these personalities, though as the play progresses and I became used to the form of storytelling, Brown relies solely on his acting to indicate the changes. Generally, Brown plays to the empty theatre and not the camera. I felt this was a good directorial choice as it kept the integrity of the medium closer to theatre than to film. Not having an audience to perform to can be difficult, and I imagine this is even harder when there are cameras around a performer must I was impressed with Brown for being able to keep his energy up and remain emotive throughout the entire performance.
Overall, the filming of Odd Shaped Balls was good. Different camera angles are used and I appreciated some tighter shots that focused on more on Brown’s upper body. Being able to see Brown’s facial expressions and hear his vocal intonations despite being in the same room provided me with the needed intimacy and emotion. While there were a few cuts that were not edited seamlessly, or stray shadows that appeared, any filming issues are completely excusable. For the most part, the production was bright and clear. There was a time or two that the sound quality dropped, but as long as you have your volume up, you will not miss anything.
While watching Odd Shaped Balls, I could not help but be reminded that theatre is not really theatre if it is not live. The immediacy and communal experience of live theatre is needed to most fully feel its magic. I also found some difficulty with this medium and my ability to focus. I typically have no problem putting away my phone for a play or movie, but the familiarity and casual nature of sitting on my couch made this more difficult. While it’s not the same, AOTC has provided a great opportunity during this time of social distancing. If you are bored of the monotony of staying at home, this 50-minute show is a perfect addition to your day, and a great way to support local theatre artists. I am grateful for AOTC and the companies that care and are able to provide our community with other options for consuming art when live theatre is not possible. Seeing the empty seats in the theatre during the stream was harrowing and a stark look at our current reality. I look forward to the day I can again sit with fellow theatre goers and indulge in the vitality of live theatre.