(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Hidden deep in the recesses of the Signature Center complex is the Studio, a cozy performing space available for rental by other groups. The current occupant is this production by the Fault Line Theatre, a group of alumni of the Brown University/Trinity Theatre drama program. Playwright/director Michael Perlman, in collaboration with the four actors, has written a timely drama about the long-term effects of bullying. Two straight 30-year-old buddies, Ethan (Aaron Rossini) and John (Craig Wesley Divino), are watching the Oscars and are shocked to hear Dennis (Karl Gregory), Oscar-winning screenwriter of an indie film about high school bullying name Ethan as the student whose relentless gay-baiting 15 years ago drove a fellow classmate to commit suicide years later. Ethan posts an apology on the internet, but it is rejected by Dennis, who becomes increasingly obsessed with conducting a vendetta against Ethan via an escalating exchange of internet videos. Ethan loses his girlfriend, his job and his self-confidence. He has to close his online accounts to stop the multitude of verbal attacks. Even best friend John is pulling away from him. Meanwhile Dennis's boyfriend Gregory (Jimmy King) becomes increasingly upset over Dennis's obsession with punishing Ethan as well as his seeming lack of commitment to their relationship. Dennis rejects Gregory's right to criticize him because Gregory has never come out to his parents. Dennis and Ethan agree to appear together on a tv talk show. Their conversation in the green room before the show provides the play's emotional climax. What I liked about the play, in addition to the fine acting, was the respect for complexity and nuance. As in life, no one is either blameless or all bad and no simple answers are provided. Tristan Jeffers's simple set works well and Jessica Wegener Shay's costumes are appropriate. Perlman's direction goes for the long pregnant pause a few times too many. Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission. NOTE: If you use the code FWP5D, you will save $5 off the $34 ticket price.