Christopher Shinn’s 2013 play Teddy Ferrara has transferred to the Donmar Warehouse from Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. To be honest it is difficult to see why.
Set on the campus of a large, unnamed US state university, the play aims to focus its lens on the issues facing students in the LBGT community. The university president — played with great verve by Matthew Marsh — much like wider society, would like to believe that great strides have been made on LGBT issues, but the suicide of a gay student on campus the previous year suggests otherwise.
The politically ambitious president has set up a smokescreen LGBT consultation group to try to resolve the issues surrounding the suicide, but it is seemingly to no avail when Teddy Ferrara follows suit by jumping to his death from the ninth floor of the library. This act could not have been more predictable.
From the moment when Teddy shuffles awkwardly onto the stage, it feels as though it is only a matter of time before he takes his own life.
Considering Teddy’s predictability, Ryan McParland does an amazing job, making his raspy-toned outcast an arresting watch. Yet, despite being the title character, he is given so little depth by Shinn that by the time his premature death comes around, you wonder how much you care.
As the play progresses, the tediousness of underdeveloped relationships become increasingly frustrating and you begin to lose interest as languid dialogue sucks the initial energy from Dominic Cooke’s uninspiring production. Talk of “dance parties” and “making out” clash with the supposed modernity of a 21st-century setting, where some characters rarely appear on stage without a mobile phone in their hand.
All in all, this is a disappointing play which is rescued by some superb performances. The issues of acceptance, depression and suicide within the LGBT community warrant so much more than this drearily indulgent production manages to muster.