Audiences shouldn’t fear a talking point bombardment. Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck’s play, enjoying its world premiere at Denver’s The Space Theatre through Feb. 21, avoids cable news shoutfests. Its story hangs on characters, conflict and emotional truths that sting like a shot of whiskey. How … refreshing.
The “Nest” in question is a family-owned bar that has seen better days. Yes, it enjoys a small but loyal band of regulars. Foot traffic simply hasn’t been the same since a roadway project started steering customers elsewhere. All that’s left are those regulars and the magnificent bar and mirror combination that’s as regal today as it was generations ago.
So when Patrick (Brian Dykstra) invites a potential buyer to The Nest it sparks a battle between the married bar owners and the bar’s faithful customers.
FAST FACT: ‘The Nest’ playwright created the NBC series ‘Smash.’ She left the series after the first season following creative differences with the network.
Lila (Laura Latreille) wants to keep The Nest in the family. Nick (David Mason) sees their financial predicament but is afraid to discuss a potential sale with his wife. And everyone else seems to know exactly what should happen next.
The production’s first act is feisty, fun and a little disjointed. A squabbling couple sets the story in motion. For a while “The Nest” plays out like a drunken “Rashomon” as the regulars share their take on their fight.
Rebeck has much more on her mind that a few slurry exchanges. “The Nest” hammers home our inability to communicate in the modern age. We talk past each other, hide our real hurts and lash out at anyone who comes close to guessing them.
Along the way the overlapping conversations turn to guns, pandemics, feminism in the 21st century and more. Much more. Rebeck creates such a powerful community that none of the topics feels forced or didactic.
It’s such a rare feat it takes a few minutes for it to fully sink in.
“The Nest” never goes five minutes without a hearty laugh, although most come courtesy of Brian D. Coats. The bar’s voice of reason brings an atypical cadence to his line. What could be jarring is honest and hilarious instead.
And then there’s Victoria Mack’s architectural expert. She enters late in the production but leaves everyone, including the audience, rattled. When she seductively shares her affinity for “raw meat” the men on stage tremble.
The production offers a bar setting that captures The Nest’s ripe personality. It’s helped by a cast that makes it feel like an actual watering hole. Latreille and Mason sweep up spilled popcorn, clean beer glasses and deliver steak dinners if they were servers first and actors second.
If your mouth doesn’t water when those steaks arrive you probably ate seconds before the production began.
For all its delicacy, “The Nest” may shove politically correct types right out of their safe spaces. For everyone else, Rebeck’s new play is a not-so-small revelation.