LCT3’s All-American, written by Julia Brownell of HBO’s Hung, is a dramedy about the games families play. High-school student Katie Slattery is on the fast track to becoming a high-profile female quarterback under the intense tutelage of her disagreeably suburban father Mike, a former NFL star. Her mother and brother are caught in the shuffle; when it comes to football, family, and functioning, who’s all in and who’s counting themselves out?
Overall, All-American lacks real suspense and immediacy, and its script seems to demand a kind of pacing and treatment better suited to the small screen than the stage. Director Evan Cabnet has crafted a zippy, episodic production rife with line cliffhangers and atmospheric interludes.
It does occasionally work (much credit to the efforts of sound designer Jill BC DuBoff), shunting the audience in and out of kitchens, football fields, and hallways. But sometimes it doesn’t, as in a late bedroom-football field montage that could have used some additional stage time and the very last moments of the play, which seem to be followed shortly by imaginary end titles. But Cabnet does get easy, natural performances out of his actors, so that production and performer are coaxed into concert.
As Katie Slattery, the willowy Meredith Forlenza’s carriage belies her character’s athletic prowess (not to mention some questionable throwing/catching skills). But her performance is honest, and her presence balances the more forthright drama provided by her castmates. She is strongest in her scenes with Harry Zittel (as her twin brother Aaron).
Zittel’s brain and mouth work overtime, the latter tasked with the lion’s share of the script’s back-of-the-classroom wisecracking. Brownell’s jokes are often funny but seldom witty, and he does his best to handle them (and his character’s arc) with intelligence and good timing. Zittel’s stalwart sarcasm often butts up against C.J. Wilson’s equally immobile Mike Slattery, to great effect.
Wilson is perfect in an opening practice sequence, grunting and blustering through the most gung-ho round of backyard ball ever was. Elsewhere, he is an absent button-pusher to whom the entire Slattery family caters. He has crafted a believable, real performance out of an unlikeable character, and it brings out the best in his fellow actors.
Rebecca Creskoff is thoroughly conflicted as a mother who doesn’t quite know how to relate to her children, and as a wife who doesn’t quite want to relate to her husband. Her sureness wavers as Beth Slattery makes her way from post-cheerleader with low self-esteem to self-possessed woman, but as the character gains ground, so too does the actress. Sarah Steele acquits herself adequately as the elusive Natasha, and Brock Harris (as stock jock Jake Myers) drops in for a bro-ment both pitiful and amusingly shallow.