The always-inclusive Actor’s Express opens its 34th season with the local premiere of Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo on Saturday. It’s a triumphant return from 2020 for the veteran, reliable, pandemic-scrappy theater.
Atlanta actor Marlon Andrew Burnley stars in the play about a champion swimmer desperate to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. Actor’s Express Artistic Director and LGBTQ Atlanta’s own Freddie Ashley directs. The theater also staged Obie-winning playwright Hnath’s works The Christians and A Doll’s House, Part 2 in 2017 and 2018.
Red Speedo indicts modern America’s scorched-earth affinity for winning – even if it means losing. The play is part thriller and part comedy with surprising turns around every corner.
“Red Speedo is a rapid-fire, plot twist-filled thrill ride of a play,” Ashley said. “Like Lucas Hnath’s other work, it is relentlessly entertaining while also being dexterously written and meticulously observed. As an allegory for the current soul of American culture, it is one of Hnath’s most fascinating plays.”
In the story, if Ray makes the Olympic team, he gets a lucrative endorsement deal worth millions. But when performance-enhancing drugs show up in the locker room fridge, he must tread water past the rumors to avoid losing everything.
The rest of the cast includes Brian Ashton Smith, Alexandra Ficken and Rob Cleveland.
Actor’s Express promises an electrifying climax to leave you “breathless.” And that breathlessness will come from behind your duly placed mask. The venue joins a burgeoning movement for vaccine and mask mandates at LGBTQ and queer-inclusive events to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
“Red Speedo is a reserved seated, low capacity, mask-mandated production,” according to Actor’s Express. “In a collaboration with Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Actor’s Express has implemented a safe protocol for operating during this time.”
The theater’s commitment to equity and inclusion runs deep.
“At its founding in 1988, AE’s commitment to equity and inclusion centered around creating a safe space for Atlanta’s LGBT community,” Ashley told Project Q Atlanta last October. “It was the first local theater to consistently present positive LGBT stories on its stage.”
“AE will always seek diverse representation in all parts of the organization,” he added. “We have committed to producing at least one work by a female playwright and one work by a playwright of color each mainstage season, in addition to continuing to feature LGBT stories.”
Red Speedo is currently in previews at Actor’s Express. After Saturday’s opening, it runs through Sept. 5 on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m..Tickets are online or by phone at 404-607-7469. Group pricing is available by e-mail request.