nytheatre.com review by Brett Epstein
June 10, 2012
Penned by Abi Morgan, screenwriter of the Oscar-winning The Iron Lady and the brilliant Shame, Tiny Dynamite features a fairly simple plot. Two childhood friends—one carefree (Anthony) and one frigid (Lucien)—head to a summer house where they are both enticed by an earthy gal named Madeleine. Although there are actual sparks onstage via lighting designer Maruti Evans, the actors fail to generate much heat inside the odd world of this piece.
That's because the specifics of the world Morgan creates are vague—after twenty minutes I was still unsure why Anthony and Blake were friends in the first place or why they remain a part of each others' lives—while Evans' set is equally ambiguous. The wooden planks and grey chairs read as generic instead of enhancing the space with rich, particular details.
Christian Conn paints Lucien with one color of dead seriousness that offers a nice contrast to the others but doesn't allow us to get to know his character in any different capacity. Blake DeLong (Anthony) and Olivia Horton (Madeleine) are more nuanced as ambitious, open-minded folks who go with the flow, plus there's a charming Garden State quality to their summer fling. The success of this romantic plotline, however, is constantly undermined by the actors' monologuing their back stories or dishing out phrases like “I had a dream last night and—[cue a character somberly discussing her dream from last night].” Although Horton capably handles this overdramatic material, hearing Madeline's two-page-long dream puts a dead halt on any semblance of a forward-moving story.
Morgan's hand as the playwright is all too visible time and time again, as when Madeline talks to Lucien about Anthony or to Anthony about Lucien… and then BAM!—that character predictably enters the space followed by a lengthy silence. Also, sequences involving memories of the past being recited by the whole company are more complicated than telling. This is a play I would need to see again to fully understand the relationships among these three people.
Nicole Wee's costume design is basic although Lucien could have been dressed more preppy or tight—his grey cargo shorts are more fitting for Anthony.
If you've seen The Iron Lady or Shame, you know Abi Morgan is a gifted writer. Tiny Dynamite is not as compelling or thought-provoking as those films.