“In high school, everything is so goddamn easy,” bemoans Barrett, a frustrated 40-something who is missing his glory days of high school football and wondering whether he and his best friend David will soon be fired from their jobs at the local chemical plant. Throw in a couple of unstable marriages, a sexy ex-girlfriend, a down-on-his-luck bartender, a heaping of double-crossing and a dose of religious bigotry, and you’ve got the makings of a white-trashier version of August: Osage County.
In Glory Days, writer-director Kerry Giese has fashioned a two-scene dramedy involving longtime friends whose lives, which were already teetering on the brink, are turned upside down by jealousy and betrayal. There are moments of comedy, many of which fall flat, such as one character’s nonsensical induction into the “Secret Brotherhood of the Bovine Order,” but like the deceptively upbeat Bruce Springsteen song, this Glory Days is, at its heart, a tragedy.
The cast members aren’t going to win any Tonys, but they do have a natural chemistry, as if they are friends outside Fringe. That camaraderie is helped along by situational and even sexual tension, such as when Barrett’s wife, Amy (played well by S. Elizabeth Brock), spices up the second scene by stripping down to a corset. If that seems gratuitous, well, it sort of is, but it makes sense when you consider she’s just trying to outdo Barrett’s former girlfriend, Pam, portrayed memorably by the noticeably well-endowed and easy-on-the-eyes Jennifer Bonner, who had stripped down in the first scene to, well, not much of anything.
Not being able to rely on the old Fringe standby of getting mostly naked to attract attention, the men in the cast must depend on their own acting talents and the script, neither of which are particularly strong. However, Giese has just enough tricks up his sleeve to keep things interesting (if a bit contrived), especially toward the end when he piles twist upon twist. Holland Hayes (Barrett) and Karl Anthony (Jimmy, the bartender) carry the play at times – the latter being the best among the six-person cast – while David Clayton West (Barrett’s best friend, Trent) and Darby Ballard (Trent’s wife, Ginger) are reduced to caricatures at best and invisibility at worst.
Glory Days, just like its redneck characters, is rough around the edges. During previews, the production suffered from awkward pacing and line dropping, but by the time it opens to the public – and certainly by the second week – it may have something to offer. It shouldn’t be your first choice, but it’s tough to totally dismiss the commentary on life’s painful disappointments lurking just beneath the play’s crude, slightly amateurish exterior.
One Pearl Entertainment – Casselberry, FL
Price: $10 (+svc. charge)
Disc.: FA | FV | STU | SR | Teachers | Theater Professionals
Rating: 18 & Up – Strong Language, Sexual Themes, Partial Nudity (not full nudity as indicated on the Fringe Website and program)