The highlight of the show for me was the subtlety of Jesse Stevenson’s (Pete’s) rage-filled performance. The small ticks, the shaking, the sweat, the redness of his face— all details that could have been overly-exaggerated but, rather, were tactfully composed to deliver a performance that both disturbed and moved the audience simultaneously. Very impressive for a young actor’s first contribution to the Hollywood Fringe!
Conor Sheehan’s depiction of Tommy was also strong. I felt that as the play progressed, Conor became more and more comfortable in his role— as silly as it sounds, his use of the words “gay” and “bitch” flowed much more naturally as the play progressed. It’s important to remember the size of the audience when ramping up and toning down emotion. You can literally see the actors’ micro-emotions from the back row of this tiny theater so Broadway-style drama is just not necessary. As I mentioned above, Jesse Stevenson nailed that balance of big verbal emotion and subtle, poignant body language.
I love the scene where Tommy switches from jock to friend by showing genuine concern for Pete’s well being— very humanizing and made his nasty comments in the following conversation more meaningful.
I also really enjoyed the voice of the person that played the friend in the room next door (Becker?)— wish he was featured on stage at least once. Because Conor is not a 6’ 3" football-player type, it could have been cool to add the intimidation factor with a big, aggressive football player for a scene or two. I think it would’ve added to the frat boy, jock vibe the writer’s were going for and would have introduced violence into the play more naturally. It also would’ve been a great opportunity to depict the after-effects of physical/sexual trauma— another theme I assume the writer’s were going for. Again, Jesse Stevenson would have nailed that.
What I didn't like
I always feel the spontaneous insertion of a series of slides/images relating back to the writer’s original political intentions can be done without— especially when it calls for the actors to cease their performances to make way for generic, dramatic music. If the goal was to make a social statement about mass-shootings and gun violence in the US, let the actors’ performances speak for themselves! There’s no need to supplement their heart-filled performances with a melodramatic set of slides.
I noticed multiple reviewers criticized the scene where the actors were playing video games. If the writers wanted to include those slides, I think it would have been brilliant to have the actor’s playing the video games on the same screen they projected the slides on. It would have made the video game scene come full circle (violent games later followed by images of real-life gun violence— hello!) and given the audience something to look at.
My overall impression
Great performances by both actors— small tweaks to the stage direction and writing would’ve pushed it to the next level for me.
I recommend checking out these actors. I suspect they’ll be around for a long time.
Definitely a show worth seeing this Fringe Festival!