The Boy Inside
by Richard Kalinoski
7 actors 3 w 4 m
A new play about a struggling small college football coach now in his 23rd year and at last vying for a national championship (small college level). Head coach Tony Bartolo is confronted by his college president, Helene Kingston-Barrows, about the brutality of his beloved game as he prepares his team for a determined run through the playoffs. Dr. Kingston-Barrows reminds the coach of a recent “accident” during a rough game and she introduces an ancient Afghan game called Buzkashi to him through a series of stark images presented in her office.
The fastidious college president is in the midst of accepting an enormous gift (for the Ramsey College) from an aging widow, Silvia Larkin, who is anxious to see a new health and wellness center built on campus. Serious complications arise among the elderly Mrs. Larkin, President Kingston-Barrows and Coach Bartolo and all three face surprising reckonings even as Ramsey College prepares to play its first ever championship game.
Warren Gerds - Critic at Large - WeAreGreenBay.com
"Why a lot of football coaches coach is distilled into a grand monologue in “The Boy Inside,” a play that is getting its theatrical premiere at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
What’s said is Vince Lombardi-esque, only better. The Green Bay Packers coach, whose motivating quotes are like so many ripples spreading across the leadership ocean, didn’t have a wordsmith writing his thoughts for him like Coach Tony Bartolo has for him in the play.
Coach Bartolo is up against a wall. He has little left to do but state his case, express his thoughts and feelings in concise and intelligent ways. Explosive emotions skim beneath the surface of his speech. So much of what he is and represents as a person flies and flows from his tongue. The speech wows.
In ways, the monologue is perfect. The play builds to it. Playwright Richard Kalinoski of the UW-Oshkosh faculty shapes his multi-layered drama toward this moment. As the coach, Noah Totzke has developed his character of a strong man tested, again, and able to unleash his soul. The scene is sensational – as good as it gets in powerhouse performance. Richard Kalinoski also directs this production, and Noah Totzke is a 2004 UW-Oshkosh graduate who has come back, experienced and matured, to deliver the goods on the home turf, so to speak, of Fredric March Theatre...
“The Boy Inside” is immediately compelling. It opens on a bedroom. The coach is up and about. His wife, Jackie (Amy Baumgardner) lies in bed. She wears a head wrap familiar from chemotherapy aftermath. She appears weak and wan. Tony and Jackie speak frankly, with profanities in their vernacular. Jackie wants to hear again a snippet from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and she tells why she loves “Papagena/Papageno!” This is a sports play, and already it is operating on an elevated level. Jackie and Tony discuss his career of foundation-building and his future without her. Tony’s care and love for his wife are threads woven into the couple’s strong bond. This is a sports play, and already the coach is more than grunts and sweat of practice and games – which come later, along with more profanity (just so you know).
Action flashes to five years later, and – without giving away too much – the football team of little Ramsey College, Division III, is having its best season ever. Better yet for the college, it is graced by a jaw-dropping bequest. The TON OF MONEY comes with a stipulation, and that serves as the impetus for Richard Kalinoski to explore a wide range of thoughts on football and injuries and the role of rough/rugged/dangerous sport in cultures.
In that last bit, Kalinoski delves into something exotic – buzkashi, played in Afghanistan on horse with a dead goat at the center of hell-bent-for-leather fury. Introducing buzkashi to Coach Bartolo and the audience is the college’s president, Helene Kingston-Barrows (Giovanna Martin). Her knowledge of buzkashi adds to her interesting personage. Kingston-Barrows is a fan of the team and appreciates what Coach Bartolo has done/does. She is a sympathetic character (not easily wrought of authority figures), and she makes a decision that will affect the college to the core.
After the opening scene, “The Boy Inside” takes place in Kingston-Barrows’ office on one side of the stage, Coach Bartolo’s office on the other side of the stage and, in the middle, a football practice field, stadiums and the audience’s imagination. Scenic glimpses: The floor of the president’s well-appointed office is painted in the manner of hardwood; the floor of the coach’s office is painted in a checkerboard pattern; and the center backdrop is a mural a football stadium filled with spectators – all nice touches.
This being a collegiate production, the cast is dominated by current student actors. In addition to Totzke, two other recent grads are in the cast. Altogether, Kalinoski, as the director, has fine team of actors in this production. Among those not already mentioned are Matthew Nielsen as the gung-ho assistant coach, Cameron Hitchcock as the president’s detail-minded aide, Maddie Braun as the spunky/aged benefactor, Josh Decker as a player with problems, Matthew Scales as an ex-player with a lingering injury and Andrea Ewald as his caring wife.
Structurally, Kalinoski, as the playwright, works with assorted bricks to make his play solid. Mozart’s “Magic Flute” makes a number of cameos. A quote of Jean-Paul Sartre factors in. Matters of time pop up, figuratively and literally. The keystone is Coach Bartolo, who Kalinoski makes worthy.
Creating a worthy character – playwriting can be fun. Kalinoski has made a mark before and has more than a dozen full-length plays to his credit. His “Beast on the Moon” played/plays internationally. “The Boy Inside” has plenty of pith, too.
Thursday night’s performance was a distinctive playgoing experience. There were a whole lot muscles in the crowd as UW-Oshkosh student-athletes seemed to dominate the audience. All got to hear Mozart and the words of a dynamic coach/man."
--February 18, 2015 at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.