New York Theatre Workshop presents a play about sports, survival of the fittest, and the American dream of a level playing field—or leveling the playing field yourself. More…
Lucas Hnath makes his NYTW debut with Red Speedo, directed by NYTW Usual Suspect Lileana Blain-Cruz. Ray has 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.
"Red Speedo moves at a lightning pace through a series of confrontations spiked with stiletto-sharp dialogue reminiscent of David Mamet at his best...Under Lileana Blain-Cruz's tightly coiled direction, the entire cast delivers...Hnath has thoroughly dismantled the media-spun clichés that inform modern sports culture, the winning-is-the-only-thing philosophy that has produced a pantheon of sports heroes who are indistinguishable from felons. This young playwright continues to impress." Full Review
"With fragmented dialogue that often comes at you like artillery fire, 'Red Speedo' recalls the (good) work of David Mamet, distilled and compressed...But Mr. Hnath’s voice and style are fundamentally his own. There’s an elemental, stylized simplicity to his work that focuses attention on the meanings behind the matters at hand...The characters are palpably, at times movingly, human in their complexity...'Red Speedo' only grows in intensity as the clock winds down on its brief running time." Full Review
"The tank is an impressive touch, and the lead actor swims a lap or two in it, but the real reasons to see 'Red Speedo' lie in Hnath’s lean and muscular writing, his complicated characters, and their desperate situations and morally questionable responses, all of which come to light in Lileana Blain-Cruz’s brutally focused production." Full Review
"The wonderful grit of 'Red Speedo' results from the playwright’s ability to develop rounded characters with intriguing conflicts that drive 80 minutes of multilayered plots with enough twist and turns to keep the audience on their toes and on the edge of their seats throughout...Under Lileana Blain-Cruz’ animated and resolute direction, the ensemble cast maintains a rigorous and energetic pace right up until the surprising, shocking, and somewhat disturbing ending." Full Review
"This is brisk, bracing and brutal drama; human, funny and so intense that the weak-hearted might need to shield their eyes...'Red Speedo' seems to be something like a two-hour play, except the actors hurdle their way through in eighty minutes. Explosive...Director Lileana Blain-Cruz makes a strong impression. She does an altogether stunning job...Hopefully 'Red Speedo' will extend so that more theatergoers have the opportunity to meet this important new playwright." Full Review
"Director Lileana Blain-Cruz thrives within the physical constraints of the production, leading the cast to thrilling and dangerous performances...As he did with 'The Christians,' Hnath raises hugely important questions about our society and the occasionally perverse behavior it encourages...As always, Hnath leaves us to slug it out after the show, a fight certain to be as exhausting and fruitless as the one at the end of this troubling and truthful play." Full Review
"As in last year’s 'The Christians,' Hnath tackles moral issues without lecturing...The production is overall superb, and Breaux, who spends the entire time in the title trunks, has the right balance of doofus earnestness and selfish cunning. It all culminates in a physically and emotionally bruising conclusion that left a recent audience reeling." Full Review
"There’s definitely truth in advertising where 'Red Speedo,' Lucas Hnath’s fascinating play, is concerned. The skimpy swimsuit is the only attire worn by would-be Olympic swimmer Ray throughout this taut 90-minute work...Hnath is a master of creating well-crafted characters who turn out to be far more complex (and unpleasant) than they initially seem...You may well be looking at swimming competitions in a different light after seeing 'Red Speedo.'" Full Review
"Hnath’s script and Lileana Blain-Cruz’s direction are as lean and muscular as the bare torso displayed by Alex Breaux who gives a deceptively complex rendition of Ray, balancing the athlete’s apparent guilelessness with a cunning and aggression as ruthless as his sibling’s. When the two clash in an ugly climactic fist fight (staged with gut-wrenching detail by Thomas Schall), this depth charge of a play hits you where it counts." Full Review
"Like each of Mr. Hnath’s previous plays seen in New York, ‘Red Speedo’ is both thematically and theatrically absorbing. It raises ethical questions of the 'what price glory?' type related to how and why athletes use performance-enhancing drugs...It uses these questions, though, more as melodramatic levers than for substantive moral debates...Still, its dramatic waters are fine and you should definitely consider diving in." Full Review
"Blain-Cruz’s work here is also a brilliant rendering of a difficult text, one that reads nearly like gibberish on the page but plays like a thriller onstage...It takes some very smart acting to get that kind of unintelligence just right. Also some very smart playwriting. If 'Red Speedo' is not, finally, as profound as 'The Christians' — the pool is only four-foot deep — that’s doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Shallows, too, are worth exploring." Full Review
"Hnath’s swift, slippery play moves in Mametian lunges of rapid dialogue and desperate gambits. It’s full of opportunists whose stories don’t check out, and the actors speak in clipped, deliberate ways. Warmer performances could enhance the play, but the chill fits 'Red Speedo’s' dissection of ambition...Doesn’t [Ray] deserve a shot at what he calls “the American thing”? He means dream, probably, but the word is out of reach for this beast of burden, whose greatest hope is to brand himself." Full Review
"Hnath deploys these gifts ably in 'Red Speedo,' a confident and sometimes cunning piece about sports doping...Easily the most topical work he has produced and perhaps the most accessible...Under Blain-Cruz’s direction, there is real fervor to these battles, even as a few of the twists are predictable and an emphasis on the characters’ venality somewhat relentless...The actors have found the rhythm of the lines, if not always the way to make them sound natural. Still, they do adroit work." Full Review
"As impressively directed by newcomer to New York Lileana Blain-Cruz, strikingly designed and powerfully performed, the plot moves forward with a series of scenes, each of which focuses on one character's rationale for the moral compromises made...'Red Speedo' isn't quite as unique as 'The Christians' but it once again confirms Mr. Hnath as a distinctive new voice in the theater." Full Review
"A sharp-edged production…Playwright Lucas Hnath and director Lileana Blain-Cruz have taken a decidedly Brechtian approach to the story...Hnath’s script is full of wonderful little plot twists, and keen observations. But the actors are intentionally stilted in their delivery, consciously pausing just a beat too long in picking up their cues...However, it provides the pleasantly unexpected result of making you replay each line in your head as they are fired off." Full Review
"'Red Speedo' is the latest addition to the increasingly substantial body of work by playwright Lucas Hnath...Hnath doesn't paint villains and heroes or delight in showing everyone morally compromised. He shows everyone as human and complicated...'Red Speedo' doesn't quite get the gold...It's not completely at home in the world that's depicted...All the technical elements overseen by director Lileana Blain-Cruz are first rate. And the cast is exceptional." Full Review
"Lileana Blain-Cruz directs this piece with some guts and a lot of testosterone...Hnath gives us a few dazzling and fast-paced scenes in this 80-minute debate on ethical challenges in the competitive world of swimming. And all four actors handle their roles with amazing sincerity and emotional truthiness...The play does falter as it moves along towards the ending, losing its momentum and speed...Overall though, it’s a good solid stroke of work, and worth the visit." Full Review
"The play is made up of a series of six confrontations in which the dialogue is delivered like bullets flying back and forth. While the story is engrossing, the individual conversations all go on a bit too long, and get tiresome before they are each over. Then the next one takes us by surprise all over again." Full Review
"This new play by Hnath addresses several issues that arise from our obsession with competitive sports...Many plots and counterplots collide. Unfortunately the play sheds far more heat than light. The lack of a sympathetic character is not necessarily fatal to my interest in a play, but it certainly doesn’t help that there is no one to root for here...Director Blain-Cruz does her best with an unsatisfactory ending." Full Review
"Hnath is a vital force in today’s theater scene, in part because of his commitment to experimenting with language. In 'Red Speedo', the players deliver their lines in staccato bursts as if they are, dare I say it, gasping for breath. Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like the play is built upon unfinished sentences in more than just styling. For all of its intellect and careful, heartfelt acting, 'Red Speedo' tries to tackle so much, the plot becomes convoluted." Full Review
"Director Blain-Cruz keeps Hnath’s script moving quickly, though the snappy, rapid-fire dialogue sometimes seems forced...The script really soars when each character has a longer chance to speak—granting the audience a look inside their psyches...Hnath’s writing leaves no clear protagonist and offers no ethical calls throughout the production. Rather, he leaves the audience to ponder that all-too-gray area between right and wrong, good and bad." Full Review
"'Red Speedo' is a pretty compelling look at America’s malfunctioning moral compass...Lileana Blain-Cruz directs a lot of scenes with super fast back-and-forth that artificially amps up the pace. That’s fine when the dialog is throwaway, but I felt some relevant information was passing me by...I enjoyed 'Red Speedo', but it would have been nice to walk away with something more uplifting than 'people are shallow, present-day values are corrupt, and athletes are cheats.’" Full Review
"It's a bit of a jumble of content, and neither Hnath nor his director quite make it cohere...Aside from a pitch-perfect physical production, what you get instead are moments of intensity and insight separated by literal and figurative splashes that douse what sparks are generated...You get a lot of broad strokes that verge dangerously on caricature and shock-driven staging from Blain-Cruz that imparts an unconvincing urgency." Full Review
"After a tremendously impactful showing last fall with 'The Christians,' Lucas Hnath brings another of his works to the stage with less than impressive results...He has imbued this play from cover to cover with staccato, interrupted dialogue between two characters...On paper it likely looks like a frantic, energetic, heightened dialogue. On stage, it merely appeared like a machine gun misfiring." Full Review
"A provocative new play by Lucas Hnath which has been swimming upstream since 2013 in various stages of development. It still needs work...Under the unimpressive direction of Lileana Blain-Cruz the play jerks along...Sometimes the dialogue is so rapid fire one tunes out. It is only when they slow down and connect with each other that we begin to care both for Ray and Peter (who gives the best performance of the evening)." Full Review
See it if bracing, incisive, and important. A scathing indictment of our fetish for winning, with a revelatory lead performance by Alex Breux
Don't see it if you don't like stylized rapidfire dialogue
See it if You think about the shifting line of ethics in our American culture; people we hold up as heroes, and the motives of those close to them.
Don't see it if You are not open to issues of doping and athletes or dysfunction in society.
See it if You want to see a totally original show with a fantastic set and great acting. Very intense story.
Don't see it if You want a light night out at the theater. Starts tense and gets worse as the show goes on. But it is worth it if you're interested.
See it if Brilliant acting and directing and unusual staging of meaningful absorbing content are what is important to you. You want to see NY's newest
Don't see it if You can't handle any violence on the stage. You want to sit back and be amused. RS grabs you from moment one and hurls you into a moral mess
See it if you like new plays. If you like dialogue that whizzes by. If you like characters caught in moral dilemmas.
Don't see it if you look for lots of stagecraft and moving scenery (although the set is AMAZING!)
See it if You like sports themed story involving moral issues surrounding performance enhancing drugs, and solid acting.
Don't see it if The pool set may disract you from story or don't want to see lead actor in a speedo for entire show & don't like shows with blood & violence
See it if You enjoy pondering "what price fame?" You like family relationships mucking up goals and achievements. Being wowed by a set.
Don't see it if You don't like fast talking, wordy dialogue. You don't like shows which include dysfunctional family dynamics. Or sports analogies
See it if you want to see a set of solid performances across the board. And if you want to see a pool on stage. ;-)
Don't see it if you want a comedy or don't want to explore the darker side of human nature.
See it if you want to see a very cool expensive pool that only gets used twice, you want to see a riveting, unique thriller.
Don't see it if you can't stand to be genuinely terrified for actors onstage, you can't handle blood or rippling wet muscles.
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