'Flex' at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Earns a Ten Out of Ten - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Sunday, July 30, 2023

'Flex' at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Earns a Ten Out of Ten

 'Flex' at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Earns a Ten Out of Ten

"Flex," currently playing at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse, is a tremendous play written by the talented playwright, Candrice Jones.

The play centers around the young women of Lady Train, a high school basketball team in dusty, rural Arkansas. Their determination to win leads them to train relentlessly, preparing for every possible scenario on the court. Life, much like basketball, is unpredictable every time they step foot on the court.

The play takes a surprising turn when strong athletes portray themselves as pregnant, or appearing to be pregnant, setting the stage for an absolute slam-dunk of a performance.

Jones not only showcases her sense of humor but also demonstrates her understanding of the rhythm of teenage girls and athletes, capturing the way they talk, walk, play, and think.

Set in 1997, the play unveils that the pregnant baby bumps under the team's shirts are actually fake, stolen from a home-ec class. However, one of the girls, April (Brittany Bellizeare), faces a possible real pregnancy, leading to her being benched by the team's no-nonsense coach (Christiana Clark). The baby bump drills become both a protest and a symbol of solidarity.

Amidst the athletic challenges, the team faces internal struggles, especially a brewing rivalry between two top players: the tenacious team captain, Starra (Erica Matthews), clinging to dreams inherited from her mother, and Sidney (Tamera Tomakili), a sarcastic transplant from Los Angeles who confidently talks smack and backs it up with impressive moves. Meanwhile, an innocent romance blossoms between the smooth Donna (Renita Lewis) and Cherise (Ciara Monique), a Bible-thumping youth minister, whose faith conflicts with her sexuality, further entangling the narrative.

Jones and director Lileana Blain-Cruz succeed in presenting a powerful portrayal, leveraging their own experiences as former high school basketball players to masterfully bring the game to life.

"Flex" proves to be an exciting play, captivating the audience's attention and evoking unexpected reactions (as witnessed in the performance I attended). The Lady Train's war cry resonates strongly with the viewers, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

Yet, what truly sets "Flex" apart is its remarkable character development. Each character comes alive on stage, providing just enough detail to spark curiosity about their potential paths. These young girls, in their teenage years, stand at the cusp of their futures. Starra dreams of playing in the W.N.B.A., but her ego threatens her aspirations. On the other hand, Cherise's deep faith clashes with her struggle to be honest with herself about her sexuality, while April contemplates the possibility of an abortion.

The synergy between the cast members is nothing short of spectacular.

"Flex" is the type of play that both stimulates the mind and touches the heart. It urges the audience to contemplate the essence of fairness and the struggle to maintain fairness in a world that often isn’t.

Don't miss "Flex," playing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in Manhattan until August 20. Get ready to be enthralled by this captivating two-hour and fifteen-minute performance.

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