The Role of the Assassin is Being Questioned


By Bonnie Goldberg

Can you imagine life changing in one incredible moment in time, a moment that will haunt for decades to come, coloring the future in black clouds of guilt? For NFL Oakland Raider football star Frank Baker that fateful minute came during an exhibition game against the New England Patriots. Baker's tackle of Lyle Turner, while perfectly legal, left both men's lives shattered. Baker, then at the top of his game, never recovered his fame and position and Turner was left in a wheelchair for life.

Let playwright David Robson place you firmly in the grips of this powerful drama as years after the tragic event Frank Baker is called upon to stand up and be a man and confront and apologize for his actions on the football field in "Playing the Assassin." TheaterWorks of Hartford will be squaring off in the intense drama until Sunday, April 26.

Based on a true incident that occurred in 1978 when Oakland Raider star Jack Tatum tackled New England Patriot wide receiver Daryl Stingley with such force, Stingley never walked again. Here the action picks up two and a half decades later when Frank Baker is given a golden opportunity: CBS wants him for a pre-Super Bowl interview where, for the first time, he will confront Lyle Turner on air.

An eager-to-please young interviewer, Lewis, a calculating Garrett Lee Henricks, has a script in his head for this revelatory confrontation. His agenda is personal and prophetic and he has no room for variations or changes when he encounters Baker, an imposing and impassioned Ezra Knight. Baker has an agenda of his own: he wants a stadium full of money and a chance to gain his self respect and professional esteem back. His brutal attack on the turf had earned him the name "The Assassin" and he has been haunted by that encounter with Turner for seemingly forever. Now he believes his life is finally changing for the better.

Trapped in a hotel room, working out negotiations and contracts, these two strangers discover the parallels of their lives as secrets explode and revelations reverberate. Like in a prize fighting match, the two circle and weave, strike out and retreat, knowing only one can be declared winner. Director Joe Brancato keeps the action and tension taut and the violence brewing just below the surface.

For tickets ($50-65, senior Saturday matinee $35, student rush $15), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Come early to view the dramatic photos of sports legends, players who changed the game, in the art gallery upstairs, courtesy of The Hartford.

Get swept into the devastating verbal and physical encounter between two men determined to put the past at rest by whatever means at their disposal.

 

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