Addison — Sossy Mechanics deliver a must-see performance in their elegantly simple production, Trick Boxing, in which the Minneapolis-based duo captures the excitement and romance of a time when working-class athletes could galvanize a public huddled around tube radios in dingy Brooklyn apartments.
When an unscrupulous boxing promoter named Buck (all male characters played by Brian Sostek) promises David, an innocent apple peddler, that he can turn him into the next great boxer, the young man is thrust into the ruthless world of shadowy fixed fights. David has just three weeks to train for a match against the reigning champion, but endowed with the bravado of James Cagney, Buck pulls out all the stops and turns the lad into “Dancing Danny David,” one of the hottest boxers in 1940s New York City.
But Buck owes money to a vicious boxing hustler named Tommy, and his plan all along is to put David in the ring unprepared, essentially throwing the fight for Tommy. As the swindlers become more and more confident of their “sure thing,” David meets a taxi dancer named Bella (Megan McClellan) who has a score of her own to settle with Buck and Tommy. Through swing dancing, she teaches the aspiring fighter how to switch up his style and what it takes to be a champion.
Strong, straightforward storytelling keeps this two-hander from dragging, at all. Sostek’s ability to manipulate his voice and mannerisms—even puppets—makes it feel like a full cast is onstage. He can change characters so convincingly mid-sentence that you expect an identical person to step onto the stage to pick up the response.
The two actors are not only accomplished dancers but have keen eyes for how the art can be used as physical acting, whether it be part of the plot, like when Bella teaches David how to swing; a musical-esque break from the story for a short, emotive dance number; or their frequent mixture of the two. In one scene, McClellan and Sostek run through a boxing combination that Bella created from swing-dance moves. They almost shout the ditty of jabs and hooks and dance steps, but go dead quiet as McCellan lands a blow on her partner. The silence that replaces the playfulness of a moment earlier lends an eerie character to the big band music playing sweetly in the background.
» Trick Boxing repeats at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8 on the Main Stage of the Addison Theatre Centre
» WaterTower Theatre's 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is 10 days of live theater, dance, music and visual art. To see the full schedule, go here.