Grindr: A Love Story at Player’s Theatre

November 4, 2013

The influence of past festival favorites, Stefanie Preisner and Neil Watkins, is strongly felt in Grindr: A Love Story, Oisin McKenna’s sweet but slightly immature confessional, which runs at Players Theatre until Saturday.

Searching for a much pined for connection, through social media and sexual applications, while deconstructing his romanticised delusion of self, McKenna’s Johnny presents us with an engaging portrait of what it is like to be young and out in Dublin in 2013.

Speaking in rhythmic, breathless, bursts, this spoken word performance mines familiar territory in its quest to chart how Johnny has found himself sticky and ashamed after trying to quell that panic which occurs when love cools. There are laughs of recognition when he reveals his stalker tenancies on social networking sites, and when he obsesses about Mary Byrne and Susan Boyle. Yet more laughs come via Matthew Malone, hyperactive as Johnny’s conscience and the story’s narrator.

But a lot of this is padding. More aroused by the idea, than the actuality of love, when McKenna delves into his lack of fulfillment and the facade he covers it with, the piece develops an urgent flow.

His potent description of ‘the little death’, the crippling shyness of his confusing boyhood crush and his fantasy fuelled young manhood open the piece up to larger questions about preteen sexuality, the emotional cost of easy access and the projections we make on the ones we want to entrap.

Grindr is as much a quick fix for playwright as it is for protagonist, a chance to look at cheap thrills and bleeding hearts, that never slip the trappings of its format. Limited in its scope, like so much documentary theatre, it’s hung up on spilling its soul rather that funneling into a greater narrative about the way gay men choose to look for and express, love.

There are also problems in performance. Words coil in McKenna’s mouth, but snag on exit, so lost is he in a ‘general’ type of emotion. More focus needs to be paid to the individual words, the coal in the fire, to let them fuel the audiences imagination, instead of relying on the pitch of his voice.

Director’s David Doyle and Patrick Culhane too need to work out the pace of the beat properly so that the poetry isn’t just mumbled away. And there is chafing between McKenna’s nervous energy and Malone’s over-confidence, which can be uncomfortable to watch.

McKenna has the charm and talent to seduce an audience. But he needs to stop so desperately trying to please them with perishable mirth. These crutches might help win the audience on side quicker, but it dulls the over all lasting impression we take from the piece.


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