Fight to the finish: Boxing play tries to take Parkinson’s down

Put ‘em up: The cast and crew of the boxing play “Golden Boy” practice their skills at Gleason’s Gym, which will host four performances startin on Oct. 22. Director Aaron Latham, second from left, has Parkinson’s disease, and the show will raise money to fight the disorder.
Photo by Jon Farina

They’re taking a swing against Parkinson’s.

A classic play about the sport of boxing will turn the squared circle of Gleason’s Gym into a stage for four performances starting on Oct. 22. The production of “Golden Boy” — a drama written in 1937, the same year that Gleason’s Gym opened — will raise money for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that several of the show’s cast and crew are living with.

The art of fisticuffs is surprisingly well suited for those with Parkinson’s disease, which causes uncontrollable tremors, according to the show’s director.

“The hitting motion seems to calm down the tremors and I never feel so in control when hitting the bag,” said Aaron Latham, who has Parkinson’s. “It feels like you’re actually fighting the disease. The bag is Parkinson’s and you’re beating it up — Parkinson’s disease makes you feel small but putting on the boxing gloves makes you feel big.”

“Golden Boy” follows Joe Bonaparte, a talented but poor violinist, who turns to boxing for a quick buck but fears the sweet science will ruin his hands and his music career. Actor Richard Borg, who also has Parkinson’s, plays a rough-and-tumble gangster who helps manages Joe’s boxing career. Borg says the role’s physical requirements help him to manage the symptoms of the disease.

“I have Parkinson’s but it doesn’t have me,” said Borg.

Alex Montaldo, who plays main character Joe, founded the group Support and Training to Overcome Parkinson’s Disease with his wife, and he also manages a boxing club at Gleason’s Gym for people with living with the disorder. He hopes the show will raise $15,000 for Parkinson’s research, split between his organization and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Montaldo also hopes that people living with Parkinson’s will look to the pugilistic production and see that the disease does not limit them. And he especially wants his fellow actors to learn from the struggles of those who have Parkinson’s.

“A lot of actors and people in entertainment should see it because most of us are crybabies,” said Montaldo. “We think our life is hard because we didn’t get a billboard or the lead role and when you look around there are other real problems. I want this to show people, if you want to get better, you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over, and not challenge yourself.”

“Golden Boy” at Gleason’s Gym [77 Front St. between Main and Washington Streets in Dumbo, (845) 201–8820, www.goldenboy16.org]. Oct. 22–23 and Oct. 29–30 at 7:30 pm. $18 suggested donation.

Feeling punchy: Alex Montaldo, left, rehearsses for his leading role in “Golden Boy,” playing at Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo.
Photo by Jon Farina

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