By Bill Dudley

With all the current stories of small theater collapsing in the Los Angeles area, one small play is thriving at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City.

“SkyPilot Theatre” is presenting a very contemporary play about the formerly forbidden topic of pro football players receiving career ending injuries, those same injuries sometimes also end their lives.

“Clutch” is written by Liz Shannon Miller, and directed Kristina Lloyd. Fictional character “Gordon Beers” is a wide receiver, who suffered a major injury that brought his football career to an end. Gordon becomes an entrepreneur, and has a fairly successful business life after football. His relationship with his family however,is another matter.

“Clutch” begins with Gordon’s funeral, which is sparsely attended by his somewhat bitter daughter, played brilliantly by Phoebe Kuhlman, (who is a dead ringer for Vanessa Bayer of “SNL”),  her somewhat conflicted gay brother (Damien Landini),Gordon’s sister (Ellen Rae Littman), who adds a strong stability to the ongoing chaos, and her off the wall zany son (Henry Knotts). Two other mystery guests also show up, including real life former Chicago Bear Bobby Neely, who may have delivered the career ending blow to Gordon, and a Dwana White who portrays a medical confidant who claims Gordon has given her permission to study his brain after he passed.

One more thing, Gordon has committed suicide. Since this has actually happened several times to retired football players suffering severe injuries, “Clutch” is just what the name implies. It is right on target. Best line of the night was when Ellen’s character matronly chews her son out for not wearing a tie to the funeral. This was totally improvised as actor Henry Knotts, really did forget his tie that night!

The machinations of the typical broken home and family dynamics now must come together to analyze just how they should react to the two mystery guests. Duane Taniguchi is the funeral  director overseeing these stirring developments.

His job is a tough one, as this is a very serious topic. The play ends on a comedic note with a request for you to “sign the guest register”. After all, you did just attend a funeral. “Clutch” is presented the next two Monday and Tuesday nights at the soon to be demolished “Sportsman’s Lodge” in Studio City. All shows start at 8pm, but get there early to experience the history and the serene ambient quality of a lounge and playhouse that features an outdoor courtyard, and extended walk along a small river.

Over the decades, many weddings and special events have been held at “Sportsman’s Lodge”. It is a shame it will soon go away.

Sportsman’s Lodge is located at Ventura & Coldwater Canyon Blvd, in Studio City.”SkyPilot”is a non-profit that presents both compelling and provocative new productions on a consistent basis. Tickets can be purchased at the Sportsman’s Lodge before each performance.

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