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The Sixth Man

A comedy/drama driven by the dynamism and theatricality of on-stage basketball games, THE SIXTH MAN focuses on a phenomenon that most of us have experienced or will: how the end of middle age brings with it the limitation of possibilities. Much like a basketball team's sixth man waiting on the bench, the attractive characters in THE SIXTH MAN all feel on the edge of something big in which they have little or no control.

The play centers around 52 year-old Brian Gordon. It revolves around two changes in his life.

First: long happily married, Brian and his wife (Cammy) are sending their severely physically and mentally challenged son to live in an assisted adult living facility. Cammy especially has trouble trying to adjust to a life without her primary job -- caring for her son, Ian.

Second: Brian's long-time weekend game of 2-on-2 basketball is replacing one of its players. The three remaining players include his best friend of 30 years -- the flamboyantly charming, complex, and corpulent Eric Gottman. That new player is a beautiful, younger African- American woman (M. L.). Quickly, Brian finds himself inevitably drawn to her, and Gottman finds himself both enamored and jealous of her.

With their dynamic weekly game as a backdrop, Brian, Gottman, and M.L. struggle to make some difficult choices. The turmoil that this creates, however, leads to a conflict that helps each come to grips with what's truly vital.

The fifth character we meet is Glen "The Burner" Turner. Also around 50, the charismatic African-American Turner is late in two ways. He rarely arrives on time to the games; and at the late age of 50, he and his wife are having a baby.

The sixth character is Ian Gordon. In his life, the autistic 19 year-old young man can barely speak at all. In the play, however, he's glib and brilliant. The Ian Gordon we meet is actually a fantasy. That is, he's the nearly perfect child about whom Brian and Cammy Gordon dreamed.

This play is viscerally compelling in that it's full of action. It's emotionally engaging in that it follows character changes about which the audience will care. Finally, it's intellectually fascinating in that it explores questions and issues about which many of us have to cope. Above all, THE SIXTH MAN is a highly theatrical blend of humor and drama that tells a common human story in an uncommon way.

Readings by MCC and Westbeth Theatre Center's "New American Playwrights Series." It had an LA reading sponsored by Mel Damski (starring Richard Masur).
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