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    Gridiron men

    A football coach's murder is seen from the perspectives of four characters, including the victim himself, in "Finally," Stephen Belber's intense exploration of the minds of violent people.


    The body of a burly semi-pro football coach is found in a parking lot, his head bashed against the ground, his wallet missing. Police rule it a random robbery gone wrong, and they never find the killer.

    From the beginning of "Finally" — a hard-hitting drama about violence and love — we know they're wrong. And it's only the first of many things we learn we've been told wrong in this "Rashomon"-style, one-actor play by Stephen Belber, in which each character contradicts the previous ones or changes our understanding about what's been said before.

    Written by: Stephen Belber.
    Directed by: Lucie Tiberghien.
    Cast: Katie Firth.
    Fringe Festival 2000

    • Fringe overview
    • Angry Little People
    • Charlie Victor Romeo
    • Compensation
    • Finally
    • The Monument
    • Thankless Jobs of the Apocalypse
    • Verbatim
    • Woman in the Animal Kingdom

    • Fringe 2001
    • Fringe 2001 listings
    Actress Katie Firth is restrained but intense in all four roles — the coach's star player, who loved him but killed him; his daughter, who married the star player after her father's death; his dead, Byron-quoting dog; and the dead coach himself.

    The football player looks at the coach as the one man who taught him simple, clear lessons about life. "He told me that it was good to raise your children well, good to believe in God, good even to be a little violent," the player says. And even when we know that this young man is the killer, we can believe that he still genuinely loves and respects the coach and tries to live as the coach told him.

    The daughter again changes our view of the beloved coach, revealing the sinister things he's done that she's kept as family secrets since childhood. She doesn't share her husband's respect for her father, whose simple, clear world view she considers hypocritical. "My father was a God-fearing man," she says. "At least he said he was, although I suspect he was more full of shit than full of God." And yet, we later come to see even the coach's worst qualities in a different way as the show continues and we learn more about him.

    If you're a sensitive soul, it's tempting to think that this is a play about people who use violence because they don't know how to communicate, and that wouldn't be wrong. But the characters' attitudes invite a subtler understanding about what's going on. They live with and understand violence, they love it, fear it and respect it all at once. Just as in football, where the players are hurt by violence and yet thrive on it, the characters in this play are intimate with violence on a daily basis and are not surprised or angry when they are its victims — or its perpetrators. It doesn't replace communication — it's part of how they communicate, and they know its meaning. You wouldn't want to be part of this family, but after this amazing performance, you'll have a new insight into their world.

    AUGUST 25, 2000

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