No one said turning 28 is easy. Shapour Benards new play, tender, makes that quite clear.
Its Soledads birthday and her three closest friends, Anna (a music magazine entrepreneur who is beginning to have some success), Sam (a trust-fund baby who is a part-time bartender/part-time slacker) and Julie (the cliché former cool friend who has gone corporate and is now hated by the others: think a female Benny from Rent) have all stopped by to celebrate the occasion. With another uneventful year under her belt, Soledad begins to question the direction in which her life is going, and with the guidance of her friend Julie, she attempts to make a change. Needless to say, it doesnt work out.
There are quite a few factors that are holding tender back. The acting is stiff and seems amateur. The actresses constantly react to lines just before they are said, with one actress in particular reciting each line as if she is reading out-loud in a classroom. The script is full of notions about New York that only someone who lives in the New York Fantasy could conceive. For example, there is a constant emphasis on the idea that Julie, having left the Lower East Side of Manhattan for Brooklyn in order to settle down with her husband, is a sell-out. In reality, most people who move to Brooklyn from Manhattan do so because areas like the Lower East Side are becoming too expensive. Ordinarily I would let this slide, but it was brought up so many times that it was not easy to ignore.
Despite a script that is so full of over-the-top moments that it could easily be confused with a terrible teenage television drama (Two out of the four characters are cutters? Seriously?), tender does have moments that show potential. The character of Anna is well-developed. After all, dont we all have that friend who is such an enormous music nerd that a favourite band breaking up is just as significant as a family member dying? Additionally, there are moments that will bring back strong nostalgic memories for young people in their twenties. In the end, tender is far from a lost cause. With some serious revisions, it could ultimately turn out to be a fantastic theatrical photograph of what it means to be a twenty-something in todays world.
Fritzie reviewed the Edinburgh preview of the show in New York at 59e59