Hidden up at Basic Mountain, this piece from acclaimed playwright Stephen Belber is real all-American treat. Old friends Bill (Dean Chekvala) and Jim (George Griffith) meet for a few drinks in the private back room of a bar after several months apart and things are pleasant - if a little tense - until loose cannon Joe (Steve Connell) stumbles in.
Fault Lines is one of the highest quality productions you’ll see at the Fringe
Connell gives an outstanding performance. He’s perfectly cast, in that his large frame and loud voice make his character’s intrusion impossible to ignore; his persistence grates on the audience just as much as it does Bill and Jim. Uncovering truths between the two friends through a series of probing questions, Connell leads the show through a perfect balance of uncomfortable and laugh-out-loud. All heading towards middle-aged, the men discuss fatherhood, marriage, their respective prostates: the dialogue is played out as convincing ‘bar talk’ until suddenly Joe pushes it too far and the audience swallow their laughter.
Belber’s script has its strengths and weaknesses: the patter of the conversation is great and the characters are real, distinct people for the audience to root for, but the story itself builds and builds until the final third, when the audience are slapped around the face with a relentless series of twists and reveals. It all becomes a little ridiculous, and the final twist negates a lot of the poignancy that had been built up in the first hour.
All four actors are fully committed right the way through the long show, and director Matthew Lillard has really nailed use of the tricky space with audiences on two sides - the movement is controlled but authentic, aided by a minimal but impressive set. Fault Lines is one of the highest quality productions you’ll see at the Fringe, but unfortunately struggles to move past the weaker parts of Belber’s text.