Red Speedo

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Photo: Joan Marcus Review
There’s definitely truth in advertising where “Red Speedo,” Lucas Hnath’s fascinating play now being given its New York premiere at New York Theatre Workshop, is concerned. The skimpy swimsuit is the only attire worn by would-be Olympic swimmer Ray (Alex Breaux) throughout this taut 90-minute work. It’s also the symbol of everything Ray wants.

Well, to be precise, we’re not talking about the Speedo he’s currently wearing, but the custom-designed, matched-to-his-full-body tattoo Speedo the swimwear company will give him as soon as they endorse him – which is just as soon as he wins his qualifying race the next day.

What compels Hnath is the lengths to which Ray, played by Breaux as a not-too-bright but ultimately smarter-than-he-looks jock, will to do to win the race -- which takes place completely around the very realistic lap pool stunningly designed by Riccardo Hernandez. But Ray, as we soon learn, is not the complete master of his fate; he must deal with his shark-like lawyer brother Peter (a stunning Lucas Caleb Rooney), his seemingly straight-arrow coach (a very fine Peter Jay Fernandez), and his ex-girlfriend Lydia (an effective Zoe Winters), a former physical therapist who lost her license due to dealing some illegal drugs to a friend along with the machinations of Peter.

Hnath, who most recently made a splash with the award-winning play “The Christians,” is a master of creating well-crafted characters who turn out to be far more complex (and unpleasant) than they initially seem. In some ways, this quartet could have been written by Philip Marlowe or James M. Cain, although there’s nothing “noir” about the surrounding.

Then again, the utterly believable push-and-pull brotherly dynamic between Peter and Ray owes a debt to Sam Shepard. (Kudos to both director Lileana Blain-Cruz and fight choreographer Thomas Schall for their excellent work on the inevitable physical altercation between these men.)

Oh, and with 2016 Summer Olympics just months away, you may well be looking at the swimming competitions in a different light after seeing “Red Speedo.”
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Alex Breaux, Peter Jay Fernandez, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Zoë Winters

Open/Close Dates
Opening 2/17/2016
Closing 4/3/2016

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Theatre Info
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003