The difficulty with reviewing a psychological thriller is that there is so much to talk about, but you don’t want to give away any of the good stuff. Jeff Hollman’s Real Danger, the first play in Emerging Artists Theatre’s 2007 Triple Threat series, is a fine example of that.
Hollman has created a taut, well-written drama about an unexpected reunion between two former college buddies and the dangerous direction the evening takes. Ferdy (Eric Chase) is an insurance agent living with his photojournalist girlfriend, Vicki (Carol Monda), when he is contacted by his former best friend and college soccer teammate, Edward (Ryan Duncan), now a New York criminal defense attorney. Edward, dealing with some personal issues, is on his way to a solo vacation in Canada. Passing through Cleveland, he drops in on Ferdy to apologize for a wrong from their college days, one that destroyed their friendship and has been weighing on Edward for years. As the evening progresses, the wine flows, truths and lies are revealed, and the play speeds toward its surprising, though inevitable, conclusion.
Real Danger is a well-written play, made all the better by the three fine actors in it. Since this is above all a psychological thriller, the characters are complex and there is always a question as to whether they are the benign people they seem to be. While both Chase and Duncan do a good job with their characters’ various evasions and subterfuges, it’s Monda who has the most material to work with and she does a marvelous job leaving the audience guessing to the very end. Chase does well portraying the seemingly non-threatening, yet subtly domineering, Ferdy.
Duncan’s performance, though good, seems at times off-base. His Edward never really appears to be the stressed-out defense attorney that he should be. For most of the play, this really isn’t an issue, but at one crucial scene, Edward begins cross-examining Ferdy and Vicki about some inconsistencies in the stories they’ve shared. In that scene, Duncan lacks the intensity of a seasoned trial lawyer trying to catch a witness in a lie. As a result, the scene that follows, a heated argument between the three, doesn’t flow as naturally as it should from the previous one. This is, however, a minor problem that doesn’t really take away from the production.
Director Paul Adams keeps Real Danger fairly light at the beginning, letting the tension slowly seep in and build as the play progresses. Sets, costumes, and lighting (Robert Monaco, Amy Elizabeth Bravo, and Jennifer Granrud, respectively) are excellent; understated, but perfectly in sync with the production.
Real Danger is an exciting play and a very promising start to Emerging Artists Theatre’s Triple Threat.
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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