reviews of Tender
DIGITAL CITY User Review - 5 Stars
This is a new play written by D.J. Preece and has the earmarks of a theatre classic. Based on the lives of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and their relationship with Ernest Hemingway, Tender is not overtly tender; it is one stormy night. This is a piece of extraordinary power. Amanda Karr as Zelda Fitzgerald is priceless - this very gifted actress is brassy, bold and vulnerable in a tour de force performance. Geoffrey Hillbeck as Scott Fitzgerald is an ambivalent and trapped writer first, husband second; Beau Puckett as Ernest is the catalyst. The cast's interplay and involvement is compelling.
Although the play in part is about art and the cost of commitment to it above the practical matter of earning a living, Tender echoes with need, love, sorrow and revenge. This is more than the telling of a partly remembered tale of famous people. The play and its production vibrate with all the questions of loyalty, passion and dilemma of any relationship. This production is well worth seeing. (Knightsbridge Theatre Production)
Neal Weaver - LA Weekly - Recommended
David Preece’s highly literate drama depicts novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald (Phil van Hest, ably subbing for Geoffrey Hillbeck) as a naive and passive pawn, fought over by a pair of emotional vampires: his mentally unstable wife, Zelda (Amanda Karr), and his friend/literary rival, Ernest Hemingway (Beau Puckett). In the course of a single drunken evening, their inebriation unleashes violent emotional clashes and vindictive revelations. Zelda is presented as an impetuous romantic, irrational and fragile, but calculatingly mercenary. More questionably, Hemingway is portrayed as a homophobic, unacknowledged homosexual — charming, predatory and obscenely seductive.
Though published biographical materials certainly suggest a homoerotic bond between the two men, here the covert undertones become blatant overtones, cleverly exploited by the jealous and desperate Zelda. (It’s also hard to believe that Fitzgerald was quite the innocent presented here.) Puckett’s Hemingway is dapper and elegantly foppish (startlingly unlike the writer’s rumpled, carefully cultivated he-man image) in a concept clearly supported by the production, including Shon LeBlanc’s handsome costumes and Robert Craig’s clear and stylish direction. The actors provide a sheen of brilliance and sophistication that almost conceals the play’s occasional logical lapses. (Knightsbridge Theatre Production)
Sarika Chawla - Backstage West
Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda Fitzgerald converge in a Paris apartment, sparking emotional upheaval and turmoil that not even these literary figures could have conceived for themselves. Writer David Preece concocted this fictitious evening through historical research and autobiographical anecdotes. The result is a scenario that is passionate, powerful, and precise, successfully depicting a possible, and probable, interaction among the three. The setting is simple: In the post-Gatsby success of 1926, Zelda (Amanda Karr) pouts and coos over husband Scott (Phil van Hest), who labors over a magazine career that will support them but hampers his creativity. Enter literary peer Ernest Hemingway (Beau Puckett), dashing, debonair, and pompous. Throughout the evening of heavy drinking and a series of brightly lit flashbacks, the three figures snarl and claw at one another, trading increasingly vicious stories that threaten to unravel their relationships.
In attacking and defending the Fitzgerald's' famously troubled marriage, Hemingway's credibility as a writer, and Zelda's fading dreams, each exposes dissatisfaction in their personal and professional lives. Preece doesn't hold back in his speculations, allowing giant question marks to hang over his characters. Even their literary successes are under trial: Were it not for one another's influences, could they have accomplished even more, or would they have fallen into obscurity? Not-so-subtle homoerotic overtones hover between the two men, complicated by the fervor between Hemingway and Zelda. At this point the characters' histories are not quite complete, so, with the benefit of hindsight, we catch them at the peak of their decline.
Director Robert Craig's talented actors are willing to throw themselves fully into the potent dramatics. Karr's performance is stellar, delicately combining indelicate emotions of wrath, longing, and pathos into an oddly appealing character. Van Hest and Puckett, each powerful in his own right, gain an extra edge off of Karr's tight-lipped presence. The production comes across as historical fiction, using public information as the backbone for much of its speculation. With a lesser cast, this could result in a thin production, based on rumors and stereotypes - i.e. Hemingway as a misogynist homophobe, the professional rivalry between the men, and Zelda's growing instability--but the strength of the tiny cast prevails. The set design needs to be more elegant and detailed to better reflect the Parisian environment, yet slightly downsized to contain the action effectively. (Knightsbridge Theatre Production)