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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Red Speedo

"I'm not just some thing" — Ray
red speedo
Coronado Romero, Adam Peltier and Jason E. Kelley (Photo by Brian M. Cole)
Ray, the central character of Lucas Hnath's Red Speedo is a competitive swimmer, a young man with Olympics aspirations, not a lot of smarts and no visible abilities beyond what he can do in a swimming pool. It's fair to characterize the people who surround him &emdash; who include his girlfriend, coach and brother/agent& emdash; as sharks.

That's cool. Who doesn't like watching a shark? Red Speedo presents a quartet of people all of whom are confronting different facets of the same moral dilemma and watches as they bear their soiled little souls and fight each other in the interest of wealth or prestige.

Staged with a sizzling nastiness by Joe Banno at the Road Theatre, Red Speedo further polishes the ever-ascending star of Hnath whose critical darlings The Christians and A Doll's House, Part 2 (which was published the same year as Red Speedo) have signaled the arrival of a real talent.

Talent, of course, is not a thing to which young Ray (played by Adam Peltier) can easily relate. Yes, he's been swimming long enough and skillfully enough to have earned a shot to be an Olympics qualifier. A spot on the US team also means a deal with Speedo. If Ray gets that prize, he's probably set for life. His brother Peter (Cornado Romero) who has essentially managed Ray's career, envisions a spot on Ray's gravy train right alongside his simpleton of a sibling. So he's not about to let something like the discovery of performance-enhancing drugs in a refrigerator at the natatorium where Ray trains get in his way. Peter persuades Ray's dubious coach (Jason E. Kelley) to pin the infraction on a different teammate. That way, Ray gets his shot; Peter gets his commission; the training facility benefits from some of Ray's heat; and everyone wins.

And then things get uglier. Ray's former girlfriend Lydia (Kimberly Alexander) who has already been wrecked by a doping scandal, reenters the picture, potentially to help Ray clear this last hurdle.

That Speedo deal looms, a shining beacon of hope and escape from the sordidness. Ray has even tattooed his body such that the serpent winding across his back and around his hip would align with a customized Speedo. What some people won't do to achieve their dreams!

We observe these very flawed people &emdash; Coach, Lydia and especially Peter &emdash; as the choices become tougher and the noose grows tighter. Romero moves Peter from a would-be hustler to blackmailing bully. Alexander, whose Lydia has the clearest moral vision of how things are and the potential outcomes, weaves in some choice humor as the drug dealing girlfriend who just wants to start a new life. Kelley's coach exudes ethics and principle until he doesn't.

In the middle of all this is Ray, a character who was born to be someone's pigeon. With his red hair, slightly gazed stare and nervous hands, Peltier turns Ray into a man who is not quite stupid enough to be a simpleton. The sad thing about Ray is that gets what's going on, and is trying to dictate the terms of this dangerous game. With a barracuda like Romero's Peter for a sibling, Ray is toast.

The play's concluding bit of violence, while certainly logical, nonetheless arrives with a shock. Fight director Bjorn Johnson stages it with real expertise, working as he is within the tight confines of Steven Gifford's set that contains the trace of a pool. The entire play takes place in the club's natatorium, with the shimmering blue reflection caroming off the wall.

Hnath's play is probably not the work that either the International Olympics Committee or Speedo will be endorsing, but Banno and his company's work at the Road makes for a deliciously seedy experience.

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Red Speedo by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Joe Banno

Cast: Adam Peltier, Coronado Romero, Jason E. Kelley, Kimberly Alexander.
Scenic Design: Stephen Gifford
Lighting Design: Derrick McDaniel
Sound Design: Chris Moscatiello
Costume Design: Mary Jane Miller
Stage Manager: Maurie Gonzalez
Fight Director: Bjorn Johnson
Plays through July 1, 2018 at the Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 761-8838,
Running time: One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson

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