Falcon Theater’s “Red Speedo”: A Deep Dive Into the Human Condition

Review by Nathan Top

How important is success? More important than loyalty? Family? Love? Falcon Theater’s  production of “Red Speedo” reveals four layered characters caught in the gray area between personal achievement and obligation to those closest to them.

Set on the eve of the Olympic qualifiers, a derpy yet talented swimmer Ray is predicted to win. When performance-enhancing drugs are found in the locker room refrigerator and Ray’s chances at qualifying are put in jeopardy, his loquacious lawyer brother Peter springs into action to bury the controversy and allow Ray the chance to compete. Script by Obie award winning playwright Lucas Hnath, “Red Speedo” is a snappy contemporary thriller that leaves the audience breathless up until the final climactic moment of the show. 

Director Tara Williams sets a strong tone for the show right from the beginning, with loud metal music blaring through the theater to pump up the audience as if for a (surprise) sporting event. The actor’s dialogue is adequately paced, Aaron-Sorkin-ish in speed with Hnath’s more concise  interchange, at times resembling beat poetry. Tyler Gabbard’s scenic design is simple and effective; the action of the play takes place entirely poolside, making for a pretty cool effect in the black box theater. Lighting designer Mason Williams also makes a large contribution to the world, using lights to emulate the presence of a pool in a waterless room. 

Costume designer Beth Bolling-Joos enhances the characters with her subtle and effective outfits for the cast and Hedi Mroz does great work as tattoo designer. Intimacy choreographer Erin Carr shows compelling work in the third scene between swimmer Ray and ex-girlfriend Lydia and fight choreographers Aiden SIms and Ted J. Weil successfully build the climax of the final scene between Peter and Ray. 

Nik Pajic is convincing as the obtuse yet driven swimmer Ray, who also has the challenge of wearing a speedo on stage the entire show. Jared Earland is impressive as Ray’s brother and lawyer, the voluble Peter, who kicks the show off with a breathlessly fast semi-stream-of-conciousness monologue that sets the stage for the rest of the show. Anna Hazard shows both depth and assertiveness as Ray’s former physical therapist and girlfriend Lydia and Rory Sheridan gives my favorite performance of the evening as Coach, a man driven to see Ray (and by extension, himself) success, even at the cost of his own integrity.

Nic Pajic as Ray in Falcon’s “Red Speedo.”

A brief 90 minutes with no intermission, “Red Speedo” is an introspective work that bursts to life, takes the audience on a roller coaster, punches them in the gut, and  quickly ends, exactly what I want modern theater to do. “Red Speedo” runs now through February 26th. Tickets can be purchased here.

Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout the Cincinnati Region.