Ellen Tamaki, Donald Corren

Ellen Tamaki and Donald Corren Photo by Russ Rowland.

The show starts at the very beginning with the conflict between Adam and Eve and how everything started and ended with balls. At the crux of the play is 29-year-old Billie Jean King (llen Tamaki ) and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs (Donald Corren a dead ringer for Riggs) “battle of the sexes.”

Alex J. Gould, Elisha Mudly

Alex J. Gould, Elisha Mudly Photo by Russ Rowland.

Representing real life Ballboy (Alex J. Gould) and Ballgirl (Elisha Mudly) whose relationship goes from flirting, to marriage, to a divorce as they deal with fidelity (hers), wife vs. career, abortion, death and being attracted to the opposite sex.

Zakiya Iman Markland, Ellen Tamaki, Danté Jeanfelix

Zakiya Iman Markland, Ellen Tamaki, Danté Jeanfelix Photo by Russ Rowland.

In Billie’s Jean’s corner her personal secretary, Marilyn Barnett (Zakiya Iman Markland, done with color blind casting, but more on that later). Watching his wife fawn over her lesbian lover is Larry King (Danté Jeanfelix), who also plays former football player Jim Brown.

Cristina Pitter, Danny Bernardy

Cristina Pitter, Danny Bernardy Photo by Russ Rowland.

Add into the mix add brother and sister tennis fans Cherry (Cristina Pitter) and Terry (Danny Bernardy) representing how genders stick together, until the revelation of Billie Jean being gay changes that.

Richard Saudek, Olivia McGiff

Richard Saudek, Olivia McGiff Photo by Russ Rowland.

And for good old comic relief the clowns or unp’s (Richard Saudek and Olivia McGiff) who are in their own battle of the sexes.

Events of the time such as the Roe v. Wade, Barbie’s 14th birthday, George Forman and tennis champion Chris Evert (also played by Mudly). We follow Evert’s marital failures, as she explains living in a fish bowl was not conducive for a lasting relationship.

Ellen Tamaki

Ellen Tamaki Photo by Russ Rowland.

The actors are all talented and with the staging surrounding us, at times it was hard to know where to look. I did find it manipulative to cast an African American as Marilyn Barnett. Though the actress was moving, it became more of a civil rights issue and not what is was. Also there were several references to Billie Jean’s hair and Ms. Tamaki’s did not fit the bill. Why not use a wig, as they did with Riggs?

The set design by Kristen Robinson was a movable literal tennis court complete with seat cover to give the full effect. Kenisha Kelly’s for the most part historically accurate costumes put us into the era.

Kevin Armento and Bryony Lavery’s script asks us to contemplate where the lines are drawn. Thankfully they let us draw our own conclusions and I am sure I will be pondering this much longer that after this review. Have things gotten better? No! They have such circled around. Right now we are at the break point with a double fault, however the ace is always in our corner.

Balls is clever, intelligent and so far one of the best plays of the season.