To do this job you got to be a great actor. You got to be naturalistic. You got to be naturalistic as hell. —Holdaway, Reservoir Dogs.
Wise words, which the cast and creators of this play apparently learned well. A Tide That Binds is about a group of friends who go camping together, and how they engage and interact with each other as their small-scale dramas unfold. But for something like this to work it's absolutely critical that these characters are believable, relatable and fun. And my word, aren't they just?
Everyone was great, but I want to quickly draw attention to Sean Flierl's performance as René. He is not only completely believable as the self-absorbed asshole of the gang, but also managed to deliver a line reading that was so much better than it had any right being. The line as written – "What the fuck are Wet Ones?" – doesn't seem that great, but it got a huge response on the night, because René's annoyance and frustration felt so deserved in that moment. A Tide That Binds gets its character interactions right, and this ensures that the script is really able to shine through.
The furnishings are also particularly on point. The costumes, props, sound design and dramaturgy conspire to bring this play to life – I was particularly enamoured with the transition from home to beach, and with the integration of mobile phones into the drama. And going back to the writing, I was also a fan of how the play used the device of the overheard conversation in a manner that didn't feel cheap or contrived – a rare achievement, frankly.
The show ended prematurely, which is both a compliment and a complaint. It's a compliment because I wanted to spend more time with this play and its characters. But it's mostly a complaint, because I feel like there was an entire act missing from this story. This might have been intentional – this play dwells in the dark places of the human psyche, and explores the ways in which we can light our way out. Giving us a clean resolution might have trivialised that aspect of the play. But that doesn't explain why several characters seemingly drop off the map for the last twenty or so minutes, or why so many threads were left untied at the end.