“Red Speedo” is Unforgiving in its Style, and Honest in its Characters
This past weekend was the opening for RED SPEEDO by Lucas Hnath, presented by Ronnie Larson at The Foundry, and directed by Stuart Meltzer. It is a quick 90 minute ride that Hnath has crafted, a morality play set in the world of swimming as Ray, played by Gabriell Salgado, has dedicated his life to the sport and is preparing for the upcoming Olympic qualifier, but it all comes to a possible halt when a cooler full of drugs are found in the swim club refrigerator. Ray tells his coach(Jerry Seeger) they aren’t his, and his brother Peter(Chris Anthony Ferrer) – who has also taken on the role of his manager – voraciously defends him right at the top of the play. That’s how the play starts, with a monologue that doesn’t give you time to sit back as it “drags” on, because it doesn’t. Neither Hnath nor Ferrer give it the chance to. This leads to the rest of the play as to what it means to do good, bad, and if even such a thing exists if we can at least come out happy on the other side.
With a play like this, extra attention needs to be put onto the text because of the speed at which Hnath has the characters jumping back and forth in the dialogue, an easy task when working out in your head, but it takes a skilled director to give the actors the tools and direction to get them to that point, and Meltzer made sure to do that. The characters never felt stagnant in their emotional nor physical positions(oh yeah there’s a pool on stage, that’ll come up in a bit), each movement felt purposeful – whether it was to get away from someone, to drive a point home, or to have a brief beat of intimacy.
With a sleek set designed by Melquisedel Dominguez, including an actual pool on the stage, you can feel the cold atmosphere of a swim club, the tile of the floor and wall, the smell of the chlorine, the emptiness of it all which in a way speaks to the characters themselves. Meltzer uses the empty space to his advantage when it comes to the dynamics of the scenes, making a difficult play, seem not so difficult.
While the staging of the play feels alive and glides us along from scene to scene with colored and starter horn transitions, the challenge still lands on the actors to not let any moment fall flat.
Salgado, a Florida Theatre native, tackles the character of Ray with his whole body. Ray never finished school, never got a degree, so everything he says comes from an insticutal place, sometimes to the point of putting his own foot in a mouth it doesn’t belong. There are moments where it feels a little overt, but because of the type of person that Ray is, it works. It adds comedy to a not so comical situation. He gives what could be a typical “jock” stereotype, room for emotional depth – from the relationship with his brother, to the romance with his ex, Lydia(Casey Sacco). There is an expected violence from this character, but then an unexpected vulnerability to him that comes out in a single line.
Lydia, who doesn’t come in until after the first scene, is the portrayed by Casey Sacco(New City Players Ensemble member), adding another layer to the story in a way that at first feels unnecessary, but then becomes crucial. Unlike the rest for the fast-paced play, her scene gives the audience a moment to breathe, an opportunity to see Ray beyond his swimmer life. Sacco not only dips her toe into the intimacy between these two people, but she dives right in, filling the scene with a tension from beginning to end of, “will they or will she hit him” as truth starts to reveal itself.
Ferrer, as Peter, gives us nothing but truth. He moves from passionate, to confused, to angry, to hurt, to disappointed, to happy, in a way that doesn’t feel forced, but has a natural flow through them all. Although the play has its heavy moments, it is also packed with humor, and no scenes are more laugh inducing than those with Ferrer and Salgado playing off one another. The delivery from them both along with the timing keeps you smiling, chuckling, and laughing when the circumstances don’t necessarily call for it.
Ray’s Coach(Seeger) doesn’t have a lot of stage time but, his presence is a fatherly one. He is that authoritative figure to provide a moral compass that Ray so desperately needs, and Seeger accomplishes it with a single stern, unblinking look.
The actors carried the play admirably, handling the text with ease, until those moments when they lost some control. Hnath writes quick and über naturalistic dialogue, with exchanges that bounce back and forth so quickly it almost feels unreal but is true to the way in which we speak as humans. For the most part they chew it up and spit it out, and then there are a few instances where the dialogue does the chewing. Despite this, it does not detract from the overall production.
Red Speedo is a play about what is right and wrong, how far we are willing to go for what we want, and how doing the right thing, doesn’t always mean the best thing. Melzter and this team have given us the kind of play you don’t usually see in South Florida, the kind of plays that need a better life in this community. This isn’t a play you want to miss out on, so if you have the chance, get your tickets now as they are selling out fast with four more weeks to catch this production at The Foundry. Now be aware that some ticket prices are cheap and great, while others might feel a little steep considering the size and close quarters of the space.
Running Wednesdays through Sundays until December 30th, get your tickets below;