Playwright Sunil Thomas Kuruvilla explores the world of boxing as seen by three women changed by the rising career of bantamweight champion Johnny Owen in Fighting Words, opening its American premiere Nov. 21 at Yale Repertory Theatre.
Yale Rep's resident director Liz Diamond (The America Play) helms the drama, playing through Dec. 21.
Owen was an actual boxer, a Welshman who won several British and European titles before traveling to Los Angeles to battle Mexican Lupe Pintor in the 1980 world championship. Owen was knocked out in the 12th round and was dead six weeks later. Fighting Words is told through the confrontations between three women left behind in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydil — would-be boxer Peg, her sister Nia who wants to broadcast for the BBC and their landlady Mrs. Davies.
Emma Bowers stars as Peg with Meg Brogan as Nia and Jayne Houdyshell as Mrs. Davies. Bowers starred Off Broadway in Things You Shouldn't Play Past Midnight (A Comedy in Four Beds) and Never the Sinner. A founding member of Chicago's Roadworks Productions, Brogan recently appeared in the Mark Taper Forum's The Moliere Comedies opposite Brian Bedford. Houdyshell's recent credits include Medea's Nurse in Yale Rep's Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella and Charles Mee's True Love, and her work has been seen in regional theatres all over the country.
Veteran boxer and coach Ray Velez taught the cast how to fight. A member of 1984's Olympic team and a New York Golden Glove winner, Velez retired with an 8-2 record after a football injury ended his career. Playwright Sunil Thomas Kuruvilla is a 1999 graduate of Yale School of Drama and has developed his plays at such theatres as New York Theatre Workshop, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Portland Center Stage. He has received commissions from The Joseph Papp Public Theater, The Wilma Theater, and South Coast Repertory. Fighting Words had its world premiere at Toronto's Factory Theatre and the writer is working on a screen adaptation of the play for Showtime. He is also writing a screenplay about wrestler Bret Hart for CTV. Kuruvilla's play, Rice Boy, had its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre in fall 2000 and its West Coast premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in spring 2001. In spring 2003, that Canadian Stage will present Rice Boy.
Designing Fighting Words are Marie Davis-Green (sets), Meredith Palin (costumes), Scott Bolman (lighting) and La Boheme keyboardist Karl Mansfield (sound).
Tickets are $40-$25. Fighting Words plays at Yale Repertory Theatre's New Theater, 1156 Chapel Street. Yale Repertory is on the web http://www.yalerep.org.
— By Christine Ehren