Splitting the difference between raw honesty and cliché, Edward J. Moore’s black-and-blue romance from the mid-seventies conjures a sputtering love affair in a down-at-the-heels dockside bar in a California fishing town. Harry and Gertie, the couple in question, are a pair of wounded dogs, snapping their jaws at anyone who comes too close. Other playwrights have traveled these thematic waters to greater success, but Moore gets his licks in with just enough force that, if cast right—as is the case with A Red Orchid’s production, directed by Dado—the play is hard to dismiss out of hand. Kirsten Fitzgerald’s Gertie is a linebacker, taking down everyone in her path. But she is more than brute force; this is an actress with a face that is at once beautiful and haggard. “I know what I am,” she says dismissively. Does she? Her worldview of the opposite sex isn’t all that brighter: “You’re all bastards.” Guy Van Swearingen doesn’t quite capture Harry’s loutish appeal, but this is a good performance regardless, full of desperation and complexity under the surface. Both actors do their share of boldface line readings, which don’t quite fit in AROT’s tiny space, but this is a minor quibble. Performances aside, Grant Sabin’s perfectly realistic set design—a dark, dank watering hole with floors warped by countless spilled beers—is the best thing the production has going for it. Sabin has done some very impressive work lately—he designed both the rural farmhouse for Mary-Arrchie’s “Buried Child” and the disintegrating apartment interior for Dog & Pony’s “Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake).” Like another designer in town, Brian Sydney Bembridge, Sabin works wonders with an ultra-small budget. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.