The Court’s latest opening is Red Bud by Brett Neveu. Well, actually, it hasn’t opened; I saw the first preview.
Red Bud is a Motocross rally in Southern
Michigan to which four friends have been coming since high school. They
drink, they build fires, they eat, they smoke weed, they listen to loud
music, they generally hang out like teenagers do. Except they’re not
teenagers any more. Greg’s wife, Jen, is pregnant; Bill’s got a very
young new girlfriend, Jana; everyone is older, slower, more receding. As
the group assembles, perhaps pushed to it by the foxy presence of the
young and irresponsible Jana, they becomes drunker, stupider and more
stoned than before. Their games becomes violent and competitive. Greg
and Jen have an almighty, humiliating falling-out and the boys really
start to harm each other, let by the wild aggression of Greg.
Eventually, the latter reveals a death wish, reporting in fond terms a
near-fatal accident at work. He produces a knife but somehow doesn’t cut
his own throat. Jana flees in horror.
It’s a Lord of the Flies play (vaguely similar are the more English and middle-class examples, Neville’s Island and Way Upstream),
in which a group of people go away from the urban world and ‘revert’ to
savagery. In that sense, it’s not a very original play. In the first
half, the fun of the guys assembling, the amiable idiocy of some of
them, the subtle and not-so-subtle competing to look good in front of
Jana, this is all quite well observed.
The second half is a problem for me,
because the descent into savagery is so quick and pretty unmotivated.
It’s a play in real time, taking around 70 minutes to go from setting up
tents to the brink of murder and suicide. Obviously the constant
drinking helps, but even so, it felt to me that Greg’s death wish, which
remains mysterious in its source, wasn’t enough. I filled in something
about his anxiety about his marriage or the imminent birth of his child
(there are some spiteful words aimed at the unborn kid), but I also had
the nagging feeling that things were being thrown wildly and randomly at
the play to force it up a gear.
Great production though. Real turf, a big pick-up truck in the corner (which provided the lighting for the last third), and a terrific ensemble.