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Theater | REVIEW

'Shadowboxing' packs an emotional wallop

May 16, 2003|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

"In every adversity, there's a seed of equivalent benefit. It's up to you to find it."

So says Grant Kramer at the potent climax of "Shadowboxing," currently pulverizing the Court Theatre. This visceral confessional from former welterweight division boxer-turned- actor Kramer is a wry, kinetic tour de force and a moving parable about manhood itself.

"Shadowboxing" jabs and feints across one corner of an iconic ring, with regulation ropes and two contrasting punching bags. As scabrous trip-hop bombards the house, the leonine Kramer performs warmup maneuvers while acknowledging the audience being seated.

This prologue, simultaneously arresting and exhausting, fixes the hybrid of pugilistic motion and stream-of-consciousness prose that constitutes Kramer's sharply written, intensely personal memoir.

Kramer, the youngest of five boys born to paternal abuse and the mean Pittsburgh streets, imbues his saga of prizefighting as escape and epiphany with exceptional courage, awesome physicality, ripe humor and liquid emotional response.

It is tantalizing to imagine Kramer's staggering talent being used beyond this autobiographical form. He would dazzle in Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" opposite, say, the comparably gifted Brian Foyster ("A Separate Peace"); and Kramer is perfect for many a David Rabe or Lanford Wilson character.

Director Sal Romeo surrounds this bona fide find with a seamless presentation, especially Gil Tordjman's concentrated lighting and the shrewd sound choices.

Even amid the current spate of worthy one-person offerings, "Shadowboxing" takes top prize for unforgettable effect -- spectators with father issues should bring Kleenex.

*

'Shadowboxing'

Where: Court Theatre, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Thursdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.

Ends: June 6

Price: $15

Contact: (323) 692-0010

Running time: 75 minutes

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