First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019
At various points during Jonathan Caren’s new play (set at a bachelor party on the Colorado River) the simmering tension that the writer and his cast work hard to sustain threatens to boil over. The script even includes its own backwoods equivalent of Chekhov’s gun: a hunting rifle that gets waved around with intent, only to finally go off in the most apologetic of ways.
This sense of anticlimax is symptomatic of the piece as a whole, which repeatedly raises the prospect of fireworks, only to keep confounding our expectations. Caren’s frequently sharp dialogue and the convincing performances take precedence in a play that is dramatically uneventful.
Pic: KARLA GOWLETT
Uneventful, indeed, is the aspiration the four bros of the title harbour for Dez’s (Noah Bean) river-rafting stag weekend. After all, they’ve outgrown the kind of raucous gathering that saw one of their friends go home with the stripper on the eve of his nuptials. While Andre (Michael Braun) is happily married, Sean (Matt Stadelmann) is recovering from a painful separation. Even Boardman (Quincy Dunn-Baker), the group’s loose canon, appears content to spend a couple of days barbecuing, drinking and communing with nature.
Their hoped-for tranquillity is disrupted when a young woman, Emma (Lyndsey Fonseca), arrives and stakes claim to their camping plot. She’s understandably nervous of sharing the pitch with four men, no matter how easy-going they claim to be. “Try not to murder me,” she says, only half-jokingly. In fact, it is the guys who are most unsettled by the presence of a forthright young woman in their midst, not least when she reveals herself to be the author of a book challenging traditional relationships and monogamy.
Pic: KARLA GOWLETT
The atmosphere of the riverside encampment appears charged, but Caren settles for a reasoned (if hardly profound) debate on commitment and concession in relationships. The situation rarely feels like more than contrivance, but there are plenty of entertaining moments in Teddy Bergman’s production thanks to the well-observed writing and impeccable acting.