PINS the play (2006)
Performed at Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory Theatre.

"Jim Provenzano's play, based on his novel, is a coming-of-age narrative about a high school wrestler grappling with being gay. Few of the plot developments are surprising: there's bullying, crying, parental bafflement, innocence lost, self-knowledge won.

But Provenzano shows a deep fondness for his characters and a sure understanding of the wrestling milieu. He's particularly adept at handling the crosscurrents of fear and lust produced by the conflict between the sport's potential homoeroticism and the team members' homophobia.

Chris Arnold's well-choreographed production, part of the 2006 Pride Series, is sometimes a bit too agitated but nicely captures the tender ache of adolescence; Eddie Bennett is particularly endearing as the conflicted young wrestler." - Zac Thompson, Chicago Reader

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"Director Chris Arnold has assembled a fine cast, presided over by Eddie Bennet, as the sweetly soulful protagonist Joey. Bennet's performance is masterful beyond his years - his palpable yearnings and fears give this work its depth and momentum. As Dink, Joey's love interest, Casey Chapman is all adolescent swagger and confusion - the perfect foil for Joey. Their scenes together are the play's highlights.

Arnold provides some fine directorial touches, most notably in the slow-motion first-act wrestling match. He keeps the too-many scenes moving briskly but allows the actors time to find the pivotal moments. PINS is a good choice for Bailiwick's Pride Series. It presents gay issues that are mostly neglected in stage work and it ends on a hopeful note." - Chicago Free Press

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"The Gay Games are alive and well in Chicago on West Belmont, at Bailiwick Repertory that is, where the annual and much anticipated Pride Festival is in full swing with an outstanding match up of queer theatre. Those athletically challenged among us can still enjoy the sport of good drama in PINS an entertaining and at times moving coming of age drama adapted by Jim Provenzano from his own novel.

PINS is a celebration of a young wrestler's love of the game and of a fellow teammate. And while it explores a lot of familiar territory (coming out, homophobia and teenage alienation), PINS manages to tell a sincere tale of growing up without sentimentality.

Young Joey Nicci has just moved with his blue-collar family to the New Jersey suburbs and transferred from parochial to public high school. Joey's natural athletic prowess wins him a spot on the school's wrestling team, where he discovers good sportsmanship, camaraderie, peer pressure, and...Dink. As the two boys fight the urge to put new moves on one another, a horrifying road trip and the death of a fellow gay student turn their lives topsy turvy.

Director Chris Arnold emphasizes youthful energy and lots of testosterone in this pleasing entry, and while Eddie Bennett tends to play Joey at the same fever level intensity throughout, Casey Chapman is a charming and frisky Dink, and the rest of the cast contributes zesty support." - Steadstyle Chicago

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"PINS" is the stage adaptation of a highly-reviewed book of the same name, written in 1999 by Jim Provenzano (the book's author also penned the adaptation). It chronicles the coming-of-age story told through the eyes of teenager Joey Nicci (played by Eddie Bennett). Joey and his family has just moved to a new town, his father accepting an available plumbing job, where Joey takes on a new school just as he is coming to terms with his sexual identity, finding solace through his love for wrestling and his love for one of his fellow wrestlers, Dink (Casey Chapman).

Though the script of "PINS" has some rough edges to it, this is a powerful and haunting play. It heart-wrenchingly deals with such issues as homophobia, both outward and internalized, violent gay bashing, the confused grappling of parents and siblings dealing with a family member coming out, and the pervading despair and loneliness encountered by a teenager realizing that he isn't "normal." These are dark and complex issues, but ultimately this play projects a message of hope - hope that the courage to do what's right truly triumphs over a world seemingly infected with fear and intolerance.

"PINS" tells a story that could not have been told 20 years ago. His parents are confused but supportive, wanting the best for their son. When Joey comes out to his working-class father, the father responds not with shame or repulsion but with concern, wanting more than anything else that his son be happy.

Many performances of the 10-member cast are exemplary, most noticeably Eddie Bennett's portrayal of Joey. Everything Bennett does exudes passion, from the expressed insecurities of his sexuality, to the physicality of the wrestling matches to his desperate kisses with Dink. One can inwardly feel his anguish as his life careens out-of-control throughout much of the play's two acts. - Gay Chicago Magazine

PINS the Play - World Premiere, Aug. 14 - Oct. 13, 2002

PINS won a 2002 Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Fight Choreography,
and was nominated for Best Ensemble Acting.

PINS also received a 2002 Dean Goodman Choice Award for Original Writing.

* * REVIEWS * *

"Realistic and engaging" - SF Weekly

"A fast-paced and imaginative production" - Bay Area Reporter

"Expertly produced ... Scenes flow into one another with graceful fluidity" - Oakland Tribune

"Played with quietly moving intensity ... beautifully written passages" - San Francisco Chronicle

"Perceptive and honest" - SF Bay Guardian

"Charged with adolescent confusion" - The Daily Review

"The wrestling action is visceral and smacks of authenticity" - The Argus

"Loaded with depth. The wrestling scenes are first rate." - Talkin' Broadway

"A heroic performance (by Nick Tagas) as Joey. He's an appealing, charismatic narrator." - The TriValley Herald

"A strong, well-staged world premiere production. Provenzano shows great skill with naturalistic dialogue and a healthy dose of wry humor. Nick Tagas inhabits the demanding role with total conviction, great physicality and a puckish charm." - SF Examiner

"A fine example of the virtues of compelling drama: spare, incisive writing, clever, sensitive direction, and some fine ensemble acting." - - SF Bay Times

"Seldom do you find a cast that works so brilliantly together. This exciting and compelling story about family life - puppy love, peer pressure from coaches and students ... jumps out at you." - SF Spectrum