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Marathon 33 is a throwback to Depression-era America. While many discouraged Americans were gathering in Hoovervilles some found work as marathon dancers. At these “Endurance Shows” couples would strut the dance floor for 45 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day until only one pair remained. Though, it wasn’t just dancing taking place at these marathons, the heart of the show came from it’s entertainers – the performers, singers and clowns. Despite their zeal and gaiety many of them never made it to the end. Instead they dropped out early to make way for “horses,” the dancers who came to win the cash prize for out surviving the competition. In Point Park University’s production any audience member who makes it through the 2 hour and 30 minute show is, indeed, a horse.

The show begins with Abe O’Brian, Jerreme Rodriguez, walking to center stage to meet his dance partner The Mick, Sarah Meahl. After a short waltz the other marathoners make their way on stage and and begin registration. Mr. Dankle, J. Alex Noble, is the shows promoter. He’s chosen a location 10 miles outside of Chicago, to avoid being squeezed for protection costs from the city’s notorious organized thugs. As he sets dance hall banners the audience is introduced June Havoc, Heidi Friese, an adorable, wide-eyed and innocent actor. She’s just walked the 10 miles from town to do her tramp performance, pay or play, and gets swayed to join the nearly 3 month long competition.

My only problem with the “Good Ol’ Days” is that they weren’t. It’s easy to look back from our current vantage point and romanticize these characters. Communal suffering builds bonds. Any person bearing adequate charisma to generate some type levity under harsh circumstances usually outshines the darkness of the memory. Point Park’s actors are guilty in the extreme. They too easily move from exhausted and grim dance zombies to cheery and bright eyed performers. Even the horses seem to forget themselves, showing more energy while complaining about the flexibility of the marathon’s rules than during the competition. I acknowledge that conserving energy is part of the dancers’ strategy, but the abrupt changes in energy level make the acting obvious; it’s possible to be angry or upset or cheery while still exhausted. My favorite part of the show was the stage and costumes. Each character is unique and the set is arranged to immerse the audience in the dance hall. The outfits reflect characters you would expect to see during The Great Depression, plain clothes immigrants, men with suspenders and sleeveless undershirts and women in blouses and skirts and the audience was relating to them. By the second act, when actors were coming forward to coerce their spectators for money, some members were throwing loose change on stage.

For a cast made up entirely of students Marathon 33 does a good job. Despite the obvious talent of the cast the show just seems to go on forever. The marathon in the play lasts over 90 days, and the production seems to make a point not to leave out any of the side shows. While entertaining, it just takes too long and even though the audience is seated by the end of the show it feels like you’ve been on your feet the entire time.


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