April 30 2009 12:00 AM

Bleeding Red a winning comedy for Purple Rose


Wading in the shallows of a light-hearted, romantic comedy, one does not expect to find the answer to one of life’s biggest questions, and yet a powerful, deeply spiritual issue surfaces midway through “Bleeding Red,” now showing at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre.

Which is more important — fanatic loyalty to one’s lifetime sports team on the brink of a championship game, or pining over the loss of one’s fianc, who cares nothing for sports and only that you don’t remember her birthday?

Those who bleed green and white will immediately know the answer that unfolds in Michael Brian Ogden’s tale of three British blokes enmeshed in the rituals and regimens of backing a Liverpool football (or as we call it, soccer) team that has never won a championship.

Matthew Gwynn plays Bobby, a grieving sports fan who cannot rise above his fianc’s ditching him for such a trivial offense, while playwright Ogden doubles as one of his two henchmen, Tommy.

Ogden takes the lead in the exposition on why a lifetime commitment to one’s sports team is of far greater significance than a mere relationship with a woman. He is Don Quixote to the Sancho of Vinnie, played by Matthew David. Together, Tommy and Vinnie are a formidable pair, acting out complex song and dance rituals far more extensive than those we see here in the states. Seeing and hearing them sing a heartfelt rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” along with a stadium full of fans on TV is something to behold.

Ogden completely captures male sports culture in this comedy, and in the role of Tommy, he embodies a quirky, workingclass British accent. As the grieving Bobby, Gwynn is a pathetic chuckle and a half, dragging his sorry self around an apartment strewn with male adolescent detritus.

This is a physical play, and intern director and fight consultant Nathan Mitchell has choreographed some complicated, crazy and truly funny pratfalls that prompt audience applause.

But what would a play like this be without a woman? Enter Heidi Bennett, as Bobby’s sister, Sarah, brought in to rescue her brother from his dismal doldrums and get him to the most important event of his life: that championship game.

The feisty Bennett throws open the apartment door ready to engage in battle with what she perceives as the dimwitted sports obsessions of men everywhere, taking on every specious sports argument thrown at her by Tommy. Lo and behold, love emerges, issues are resolved and the three amigos, with Sarah, head off to the big game.

Former fiance Liz, played by Stacie Hadgikosti, shows up briefly as the fanatics debark, only to be ushered out of the apartment with the British equivalent of a “catch-you later, biatch.”

With this play, Ogden captures the importance of the seemingly casual pastimes that occupy our lives and fill the spaces between the few moments of true intimacy. Raising the question, can one exist without the other?

‘Bleeding Red’

May 30 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday 2 p.m.
Sunday Purple Rose Theatre Co., 137 Park St., Chelsea $25-$38 (517)
433-7673 www.purplerosetheatre.org