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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The Art of Losing a new play by Julie Del Prete

Or: The Kingdom

The outlook wasn’t hopeful for the Boston Red Sox that year, or indeed for any of the 86 previous years since they won the first World Series and were cursed by Babe Ruth. Over time heir string of near misses and bitter defeats has hardened a nation of fans fire-forged in their loyalty and desperate in their hope that one day their team, and by extension themselves will win the World Series and therefore “Win Everything”. Few believe in this covenant, or implore the baseball gods more devoutly, than Brett (Wyatt Fair), Holy (Zoe Maltby) and Dominic (Ari Shapiro), three siblings in dire need of a miracle. Their father has disappeared, leaving them quasi-orphaned and sent to live with their mysterious and estranged Aunt Peg (Emily Fishkin). Aided only by their friend Dash (Sam Douglas) and pulling themselves apart at the seams, they stride out onto the field of destiny, in Juli Del Prete’s charged epic on the nature of belief, family, and hope.

Hilarious, heartfelt, and sharp edged Del Prete’s greatest gift is knowing how to keep her audience in the place she wants them to be. She does not pander to our ignorance (on baseball matters or otherwise) but neither does she leave us entirely in the dark. Our understanding of her story never flags behind or races ahead but is kept nicely at the threshold of revelation. She is a master of cloaking her characters wants in other, seemingly alien words and showing us the outline of their true meaning underneath. She also manages to juggle the feeling of a great swelling strings of an epic with the quiet adagio of a family picking itself a part.

Perhaps most importantly she has created a quintet of five fully voiced and wonderfully fashioned characters, best scene upon the practiced hand of some superb actors. Shapiro excels as Dominic the child prodigy, grasping the maturity of a child and mingling it with the childishness of a genius; his creator lavishes some of her best and zaniest lines upon him and he spends them all right. Similarly Fair’s Brett embraces both a laxness of character and a quiet desperation, his jokes said with a smile that never quiet reaches the eyes. Maltby’s plays Holly like a virtuoso, coaxing out the notes of utter despair in the midst of all her lightning hot humor and snark. You can see her thoughts twisting and her heart yearning even as she stands perfectly still, much like Douglas’s Dash, who plays a lovely counterpoint with his swaggering bravado. His choices are bold and fully committed, it takes great talent to be absolutely riveted by shock and horror when your sitting down at a reading table. And finally Fishkin adds a grace note through Aunt Peg’s calm, rational awkwardness in trying to adapt to the three kids thrust into her lap. With understatement and shining compassion she provides a firm hand for us to latch on to on this shifting, tilting field.

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