Members say: Great staging, Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious, Relevant

About the show

It's 1973, and Houston's Astrodome is playing host to one of the biggest cultural events of all time as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs face-off in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match.

... Read more

From the creative team behind 'Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally', 'Balls' is a high-intensity theatrical retelling of this unforgettable match and the cultural debates it ignited around sexism, women-in-sport, and equality. One Year Lease's high-energy physical style attempts to capture the carnival atmosphere of the original event, and features a shot-by-shot re-imagining of the entire match. 

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$56 Orchestra


Limited to 4 tickets per order. All offers subject to availability. Offer valid for performances of Balls through 2/25/18. This offer may be revoked or modified at any time without notice. Not valid with any other offer. Standard service fees apply to all phone/internet orders.

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Though this action is cleverly devised...and executed is neither tennis nor theater but a kind of hysteria. The whole play seems to be constructed backward, starting with a concept requiring a full 85 minutes of athletic representation and ending with the maddening question of how to fill all that time...Never gets anywhere near an insightful gloss on the battle of the sexes, writ large or small...As intellectually underfed as it is imaginatively overindulgent." Full Review


"An exciting and ingenious production...A stunning show that creatively portrays the infamous tennis match...The show presents an energetic, realistic depiction of this 'Battle of the Sexes' match point by point. The narrative cleverly integrates other characters...While the production is colorful, lively, and entertaining, it also does an excellent job of exploring the serious topics...The company of 'Balls' is a dream team." Full Review


"A play with so many colliding spheres...While Armento and Lavery manage to juggle a lot in their idea-heavy and plot-light story, quantity ends up burdening a play that could have used a far more delicate touch...Stories circle King and Riggs like satellites...We're led down a rabbit hole of questions...There's not nearly enough time to focus on any of these questions, but they're valuable topics to walk out the door pondering." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"It's a heady mix, filled with fascinating and evocative details...Despite the richness of its themes, the play is not always successful...Sometimes too much happens at once...At times, King and Riggs end up seeming like supporting characters in their own drama...Still, 'Balls' is never dull...And, in its eccentric way, 'Balls' makes its case that the Battle of the Sexes provides a window on issues that continue to rattle us to this very day." Full Review


“True, tennis has its serious fans, but it’s a challenge to present it on stage as a dynamic set piece. That the show achieves a you-are-there feel is thanks to Lomonte’s clever movement direction…Privilege, inclusion, and women’s rights are all on the agenda. And those big-picture concerns are neatly played out before our eyes...'Balls' has a credible cast, interesting staging, and sometimes fun, even heartbreaking moments." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“'Balls'…uses the famous match to create a phantasmagoric, nonlinear blend of athletic staging, comedic acting and mime, and historical information tying the significance of the…story…to national and world events, many connected to issues of…gender…parity…Tamika and Corren make their serves and returns so palpable you can practically see the invisible spheres…The dynamics of the game serve as a vibrant metaphor for the forehands, backhands, lobs, and overheads that make up the volleys of life.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Direction is exquisite and makes this 'battle of the sexes', oh so watchable...Unlike most PC correct, contemporary pieces, 'Balls,' does not shove it’s agenda in your face...Kevin Armento and Bryony Lavery’s script asks us to contemplate where the lines are drawn. Thankfully they let us draw our own conclusions...'Balls' is clever, intelligent and so far one of the best plays of the season." Full Review


"You don't you need to be a tennis player to see and enjoy 'Balls'...Tamaki and Carren...indeed move around the stage-cum-Astrodome court and hit their pretend balls so that it all feels like the real thing. Though the script doesn't give either Tamaki or Carren much to do in the way of nuanced acting, it does take us through the entire game, and does so within the time that the match lasted...Admirable as the performers are, the staging is the big star of this production." Full Review


"An overblown and hollow spectacle...Nothing registers as organic or significant, and it all comes across as meaningless filler. The talented cast is spurred on to deliver exaggerated characterizations...When it focuses on these simple human elements, 'Balls' has sparks of interest. However, it goes off on inane tangents with the aim of connecting the events to a contemporary cultural sensibility and is a crashing bore." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"There is much more here than the re-creation of the match, itself so marvelously choreographed...'Balls' is a work of consummate collaboration that not only immerses us in the sights and sounds we would have encountered at the Astrodome, but also places that singular moment within its historic context...An exceptionally well-wrought ensemble piece...You'll be hard pressed to find a better retelling of a story that has obtained near-mythic status as 'The Battle of the Sexes.'" Full Review

Broadway & Me

"A highly-stylized stage version of the event...However, the show has more on its mind...It seeks to work on a metaphorical level and to make points about the gender politics of the past four decades...None of the revelations are particularly fresh or insightful...Although, the diverse company of energetic, it's also uneven...Perhaps the problem may be that there were too many hands involved in the creation of so small a show." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Riggs' persona is well-written, nuanced, and complex. King's character, however, is less developed and her internal struggles with heterosexism, professionalism, and sexual desire are hinted at but never fully revealed. I found this disappointing. At the same time, there is much to recommend in this production...Movement director Natalie Lomonte has done a stellar job of choreographing...All told, it’s a gripping work. Timely and provocative." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"Hits you on the head with a racket over and over with its constant repetition of its themes. In fact, it’s the playwrights’ predilection of delivering a theme rather than a thesis that makes the 90-minute play feel as endless as a baseball game...The play fails to turn Riggs and King into flesh and blood characters...The play is so obsessed with delivering its pro-equality message that it makes what should’ve been a simple, yet complex, allegory become convoluted and confusing." Full Review

Off Off Online

"'Balls' asks how society has changed since the unsavory display at the Astrodome and whether the changes are for better or worse. Some answers may be evident, but the actors don’t ram them home. Mindful of recent disclosures regarding outrages to civil liberty, including sexual misconduct and coverup, playgoers may find 'Balls' disheartening, but their spirits will be buoyed by the energy and resourcefulness of this highly theatrical escapade." Full Review


"This production, with Ellen Tamaki and Donald Corren as the leads, is marked by bursts of intense physicality and madcap energy...The sheer number of disparate threads shoehorned into a discursive script does make one pine for the laser focus that King brought to her matches...'Balls' nonetheless has much to recommend it. Olivia McGiff and Richard Saudek merit special mention as court jester clowns...Many of the equality issues from 45 years ago clearly remain relevant." Full Review

Pop Culturalist

"There are a whole host of topics and plot points that, if curated a bit more and whittled down with more of a focus, would make this production more precise and polished. While the play itself needs more work, other parts of the production were solid...The movement direction was spot-on...Despite 'Balls's' shortcomings, it is definitely a play that will make you think a bit about how far we've come with women's rights…and how far we've yet to go." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Straightforward depictions tossed together with inventive departures not only forfeit the zeitgeist that defined the times, they marginalize a significant part of recent history and the result is confusion...As flawed as it stands, 'Balls' has a cornucopia of advantages: readily available, vibrant material, excellent staging, sleek choreography and a talented cast. Assiduous editing might take care of the play. The fine team behind the production can certainly take care of the rest." Full Review

Plays to See

"A thrilling, inventive, physical, breathless re-telling of the Battle of the Sexes...The play smartly moves away from the heaviness on and off the court...Told with impossibly tight choreography, funny interludes and unabashed energy, directors Demos and Flint have taken an already creative script from Armento and Lavery and fashioned it into an innovative, ambitious, unforgettable performance." Full Review


for a previous production "Central to the match was the backdrop of the feminist movement...And it’s addressing this movement and its aftermath that 'Balls' serves up and often aces...Without question it’s the depiction of the match itself that’s the main accomplishment and joy of the show...We never really get to know Riggs or King, other than some brief insight into why each is playing...No question we’ve been given a theatrical spectacle. A damn good one at that." Full Review

CultureMap Houston

for a previous production "The play embodies all the audacity, daring and a dash of recklessness, that its title connotes, but it also possesses such sparks of life...'Balls,' ever kinetic, allows a multitude of other points of views to give voice to the event...The stellar performers move beautifully together...While 'Balls' tends to play more cerebral than visceral, it ultimately wins its match made in theater, as one not to be missed." Full Review

Birth Movies Death

for a previous production "This unique production delivers one of the most technically impressive reimaginings of a historical event while delving into the deep emotions behind its social context...An innovative play with the most impressive level of technical precision. It’s rife with humor, poking fun at the very concept of the battle of the sexes. Yet it gets reflective in ways I never expected, offering stark criticism and authentic heartbreak that blurs the lines between the gender wars." Full Review

The Theatre Times

for a previous production "'Balls' fully captures the circus atmosphere of the most well-known—and absurd—tennis match of all time...Aside from fast-paced direction by Ianthe Demos and Nick Flinte, Natalie Lomonte’s movement direction is a triumph in and of itself...So perfectly captures the circus that was the Battle of the Sexes...As a tennis fan, I was impressed at the accuracy of both story and execution. As a theatre fan, I was blown away by the theatricality of the performance." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Clever, Slow, Great staging

See it if you are fascinated with the collaborative nature of theatre. The interaction between sound, lights, actors,'s pretty masterful.

Don't see it if you want a story only focused on the tennis match. They use this as a base for other themes, which are hit and miss.

Ambitious, Clever, Quirky, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if only is you like tennis and know something about the history of the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match.

Don't see it if if you are a real fan of the game of tennis. You might just leave the theater running and screaming.

Also BRAVO to the director/choreographer and the production design team for... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Simple

See it if you will be delighted by a constantly-moving and highly creative staging and excellent design on a small but very impressive scale.

Don't see it if you are expecting a deep dive into the subject matter or anything more than a simple gloss on the complicated subject of gender equality.

Delightful, Edgy, Great acting, Profound, Entertaining

See it if A show about sexism, sports, and a great talked about match in history. If you like tidbits about feminism and history in your shows

Don't see it if You just want to see a match about tennis

Banal, Cliched, Insipid, Excellent staging, At 80 minutes, "balls" is way too long

See it if you want to see some clever staging by Ianthe Demos and Nick Flint.

Don't see it if you want to be hit over the head with the play's themes. You enjoy plays with well-developed characters, and has an arc.

Cliched, Slow, Dated, Great staging, Fluffy

See it if You’re a hardcore tennis or movement theatre fan

Don't see it if You like plays that actually *do* something.

Also A staging badly in need of a play.

Clever, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to see a great staging of THE tennis match of the century. Very creative was to keep you engaged as the match was replayed.

Don't see it if you do not like shows about the feminist movement, abortion and women and gay rights.

Also You do not need to know a lot about tennis to watch this show, but hav... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if want a bunch of themes from feminism to scandal lobbed at you (pun intended) in an immersive setting

Don't see it if want more depth as too many ideas thrown out in this short play

Clever, Relevant, Slow, Great staging

See it if interesting parallel of the battle of the sexes against the modern day. learned a lot about billie jean king.

Don't see it if you have no interest in tennis, the 1970s or the topic of gender

Dizzying, Intense, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciatingly loud

See it if You are a huge tennis fan and need to follow every single aspect of the sport. You saw the movie and want to compare the treatment.

Don't see it if You can’t deal with dialogue that is almost 100% shouted. There is almost no vocal variety.You require a forward moving plot !

Ambitious, Clever, Great staging, Tech-masterful

See it if you love seeing new ways of approaching how to tell a story, or you are fascinated by the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis event.

Don't see it if you are expecting a serious sociological study or super-quality writing/acting -- the coolest thing about this is the technical precision.

Also In "close-to" real time, the entire actual Riggs-King match is replaye... Read more Read less

Clever, Quirky, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if A quirky fun piece of theater..cleverly staged, well acted -quick paced but chaotic at times -you don't need to know about infamous .match

Don't see it if You want linear totally sensible theater--you hate tennis. aren't interested in the historical match, Riggs or BJ King event.

Ambitious, Quirky, Relevant, Indulgent, Great staging

See it if you’d enjoy a drama about the King-Riggs matches interspersed with the story of how gender constructs affect an unrelated romance.

Don't see it if you would prefer a linear plot that focuses only on the participants in the famous tennis match.

Also Absolutely loved the diversity in casting.

Clever, Dizzying, Fluffy, Wonderful staging

See it if Interest in Tennis not required, but knowing about this big match helpful. Staging was ingenious. Some of the characters were unnecessary.

Don't see it if You want a really good, serious play. If tennis bores you. If silliness on the stage annoys you.

Funny, Creative, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you want a show that is about much more than a tennis match. It focuses on women's rights, abortion and LGBT equality, but with humor.

Don't see it if you don't care about how gender equality has advanced in recent history.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Relevant, Disappointing, Great staging

See it if an overly ambitious piece of theater dealing with equal rights using the famous King/Riggs tennis match as its basis for metaphor.

Don't see it if you know nothing about tennis, especially its scoring or if that famous tennis match is unknown to you.

Ambitious, Cliched, Entertaining, Fluffy

See it if You want to see some very good actors pull off a fun piece, creatively staged in very close quarters.

Don't see it if Getting preached to or hit over the head with “the point” of the work annoys you.

Ambitious, Clever, Disappointing, Excruciating, Frenzied but slow

See it if You are interested in headlines that were contemporaneous with Riggs vs King match. Tries to tell 3 meaningful stories within the matchplay

Don't see it if You dont like lights and frantic movement, overlapping stories, and overall cacophony.

Also In a year that saw the quietly lovely (I was in the minority of people... Read more Read less

Confusing, Slow

See it if you want to see a reenactment of the King/Riggs Tennis match in the 70's with lots of other encounters thrown in that make it crazy.

Don't see it if you have no interest in tennis, or seeing the King/Riggs match performed for 80 long minutes.

Ambitious, Relevant, Tiring, Great staging, Uneven

See it if you're interested in tennis and/or gender theory. Best sound design I've heard in a long time, some very impressive staging, and rich ideas.

Don't see it if you'll be bothered by the stylization and bouncing around time and space. And the random clowns. (Why the clowns?) It's a bit overstuffed.

Intense, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you love shows about gender equality or have an affinity for Billie Jean King or tennis.

Don't see it if you'd like to see a well-oiled show.

Creative, Clever, Quirky, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if you're open to something unusual that addresses the issues surrounding the 'Battle of the Sexes' in a unique way that only theater can do.

Don't see it if you're looking for a more conventional/linear approach to storytelling. This is definitely offbeat and a little bizarre, but worthwhile.

Clever, Entertaining, Great staging, Unique

See it if you love tennis, shows about historical events or you want to see a really uniquely staged show.

Don't see it if you don't like tennis, history or you do not like shows that do not strictly follow a linear plot.

Indulgent, Great staging, It has its moments

See it if You are a sports fan and want a bit of fluff and some interesting staging and were interested in the King/Riggs match

Don't see it if You don’t like tennis

Absorbing, Clever, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you have even a slight recollection of the King-Riggs tennis match, because what you remember will probably be only a fraction of the story.

Don't see it if you need linear storytelling, or hate tennis or don't think there is anything to be gained from an analysis of male-female roles.

Cast & Creatives (20)