Ronnie Larsen Presents and Plays of Wilton (POW!) take a dive into the cutthroat world of Olympic swimming with “Red Speedo,” Lucas Hnath’s 2016 Obie-winning drama playing at the Foundry through Dec. 30.
Ray (Gabriell Salgado) is a rising star on the cusp of landing a spot on U.S. Olympic team – but he has a secret. His fast-talking brother and aspiring sports agent Peter (Chris Anthony Ferrer) plans to cash in on his brother’s success at the trials the next day.
Both dreams of fame and riches are sure to follow until a doping scandal at the swim club is revealed. What ensues is a hard 90-minute examination of the moral and ethical compromises Ray, Peter, Coach (Jerry Seeger) and Ray’s former girlfriend Lydia (Casey Sacco) have accepted and must continue to make if they are to achieve their supposed goals.
By the end of the fast-moving single act, all are broken to some degree and Hnath spares the audience the tidy resolution most theatergoers demand.
Set designer Melquisadel Dominguez transforms the Foundry into a believable natatorium, complete with a working heated swimming pool – it’s small, but real in every sense. And thanks to lighting designer Preston Bircher, the water reflects hypnotically on nearly every surface of the tiled stage, completing the illusion.
The ultimate triumph of the production is not only due to a well-written play, talented cast and elevated set, but also the nuanced direction of Stuart Meltzer, a multiple Carbonell-winner, who is indisputably the best in South Florida.
Hnath is a master of dialogue and Meltzer coaxes mesmerizing performances from all, especially as they bicker amongst themselves and attempt to justify their indefensible actions. From any seat in the intimate Foundry space, it’s possible to witness the constantly evolving thought processes of each character as they react to the latest twists in the surprisingly straightforward plot.
Salgado delivers a brilliant performance as Ray, a not-so-bright jock who would inject illegal substances into his body to gain an edge on one day and then throw it all away the next just to settle down in relative obscurity with his love, Lydia.
While the show doesn’t explore any gay themes – a departure for producer Larsen – watching the ripped actor parade across the stage in a red speedo is a treat enough for the largely middle-aged, gay POW! audience; but, Salgado offers much more, engaging and captivating that audience from the opening scene. Look for a Carbonell nomination and perhaps a trophy next year for Salgado and the production.
“Red Speedo” is a clear winner.
Lucas Hnath’s “Red Speedo” is being performed through Dec. 30 at the Foundry, 2306 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets start at $35 at RonnieLarsen.com.