By Sunil Kuruvilla
Cast: 3w. In 1980, boxer Johnny Owen traveled from the small mining town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, to Los Angeles to challenge Lupe Pintor for the world bantamweight championship. Forty men from the town accompanied Owen to watch the fight at ringside. Fighting Words focuses on sisters Peg and Nia, and their landlady Mrs. Davies. It is the story of the women who watched the fight on television back in Wales. As they bake cake, readying for the gathering of women at the gym, Peg, Nia and Mrs. Davies support and ridicule each other as they reveal their secrets and dreams. Nia has been giving Johnny speech lessons so that he will be less shy in front of the American press. She longs to get a radio job so that she can move away from her confining life. Peg is crazy about boxing. No one will spar with her but Johnny, and she believes he will marry her. Mrs. Davies, the midwife who delivered Johnny, frets that her husband can't live without her for a few days in America, but it becomes clear she can't live without him. As the cake rises in the kitchen so do the tempers as the women fight about who knows Johnny best, then about which one of them he loves more. Anger and jealousy split the women and by fight night, Peg is sitting at ringside in Los Angeles with the men. Suddenly Johnny is down and their dreams are shattered! Weeks later, Peg sits at the kitchen table as if in a coma, as Nia delivers the heartbreaking news of Johnny's death from his injuries. Mrs. Davies then bravely, vacantly, chatters on, pretending that the world is as it has always been—a place for us to endure life's pain. "Johnny Owen...was the contender, a celebrity in a place where the men who can find work do it in coal mines. The others are on welfare. For the poor people of Merthyr Tydfil, Johnny represents a vicarious once-in-a-lifetime chance to be noticed... Fighting Words is concerned with entrapment and survival, the compromises of marriage and the role of women, the futility of banking on fame, the tedium of lacking fortune...a transporting tale...the play makes a complete round trip in record time—from life to art, then back to life." (New York Times) "An engrossing, unusual play about the frailty of ambition and dreams...intensely intimate... Most wonderfully, its sneaky left hook of a punch lingers on the soul well after the final round." (New Haven Register) Simple set. Approximate Running Time: 90 minutes.