Red SpeedoGripping Into You At Olympic Speed (In A Good Way)
Los Angeles is a city full of live theatre. That doesn’t always mean its full of GREAT live theatre but once in a while powerful performances, stripped down into the grit and realness that make Scorsese-like intensity seem perfectly normal, gripping us the moment the actors monologue comes your way. That is what happened with I found myself at North Hollywood’s, The Road Theatre, watching a performance of Red Speedo. A play that is performed by four compelling actors, you’re reeled in the moment they open their mouths.
Starring: Adam Peltier, Coronado Romero, Jason E. Kelley, and Kimberly Alexander.
Ray’s swum his way to the eve of the Olympic trials. If he makes the team, he’ll get a deal with Speedo. If he gets a deal with Speedo, he’ll never need a real job. So when someone’s stash of performance-enhancing drugs is found in the locker room fridge, threatening the entire team’s Olympic fate, Ray has to crush the rumors or risk losing everything. A sharp and stylish play about swimming, survival of the fittest, and the American dream of a level playing field—or of leveling the field yourself.
This is a story that strips down the realities of Olympic qualifying athlete, Ray (played by Adam Peltier), who may not be the sharpest tool in the box but has the skill and agility to change the course of his life. Through a rather cathartic journey, we are thrown deep into the conflicted world of he and his brother Peter (Coronado Romero), the twisted love story Ray has with Lydia (Kimberly Alexander), and the dutiful relationship he has with his Coach (Jason E. Kelley). With a pace that never hastens in intensity and tone, you find a brilliance behind the powerful performances of each actor.
Played with conviction, we forget we are watching roles designed for actors but instead feel like we’ve been given an inside glimpse into this young torn athlete’s sordid situation. Tackling the culturally uncertain topic of performance enhancing drugs, the audience feels anxiety, anger, compassion, love, sensuality, indulgence, fear, and ultimately – empathy. This is time well spent with actors who I imagine must collapse from exhaustion at the end of each performance! (It’s that powerful!)
Adam Peltier embodies the character of Ray in every way. You find yourself cheering for him, wanting to smack him, laugh at him, feel sorry for him, and ultimately want to know how his life is all going to play out. Coronado Romero plays an endearing, level headed lawyer, also Ray’s brother Peter, whose presence compels you at the play’s onset with his immersive monologue. His character has the biggest conflict, risks, heartbreaking and heart pounding moments, and as he charges across stage whether stage left of Pettier or Kelley, he commands your attention.
Jason E. Kelley plays coach – the kind of coach you know exist out there – the ones who fight the tireless fight to stand up for that one gifted kid who could change the course of their lives if only they’d stay focused, keep it clean, and not fall into the pitfall of instant celebrity-ism. His performance is authoritative, full of conflict and compromise, determination, passion, and his desire to change the course of his own life, in the hopes of saving the center where he trains Ray, unravels every time he’s on the scene. Kimberly Alexander’s portrayal of Lydia is endearing, manipulative, sweet, charismatic, and volatile. A character that doesn’t seem to be one you’d want to cheer for until you realize what she’s endured as a result of her complicated relationship with Ray, Alexander is an actress whose range unpacks itself with each sentence.
As for the play itself, written by the brilliant Lucas Hnath and directed by Joe Banno, you feel as if you’ve been thrown into the middle of something profoundly personal. Written in the way that the pacing never dulls, you feel the rush of every possible situation presented. Almost like you’re sitting on the top of the stairs listening as your parents fight, you have a feeling of uncertainty, fear, hope, curiosity, and disdain all dancing around themselves in a precariously acceptable form of emotional entanglement. It speaks volumes of Hnath’s ability to tell story, never making you feel too far away from the realities he presents. “Red Speedo” is a wonderfully acted, powerfully executed, flawlessly directed piece of literary ferocity that deserves to be seen.
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