Anyone who hangs out in a neighborhood pub or, even more so, owns one, will relate to the goings-on at The Nest, the bar in Theresa Rebeck’s provocative new comedy of the same name. The Nest is currently making its world premiere at the Space Theatre in Denver through February 21.
Rebeck’s mom-and-pop neighborhood tavern is both the setting and the subject of the play. As the setting, it provides the time-honored place for regulars to meet, drink and loudly discuss everything from war to pandemics to gender differences. The dialogue between customers and owners (married couple Lila and Nick) is smart, snappy and funny, until some conversations hit buttons that spark anger and reveal underlying tones of hopelessness.
As the subject, the dated pub with a broken jukebox is losing customers to the snazzy corporate T.G.I. Friday down the road. And the U-shaped bar in the bar—a beautiful hand-carved period piece with a huge antique glass mirror made by Lila’s great, great grandfather—Nick learns is worth a lot of money when an antique dealer shows up to appraise it. Lila is horrified that Nick would even consider selling it or the family-owned pub, just when she has created a new menu featuring flash-frozen steaks. Nick’s wanting out of the biz fueled by a customer who has a stake in selling the vintage bar creates tension that balances the humor.
All eight actors execute fine performances in their well-developed characters, all of whom you might run into in any corner bar. Dating couple Ned and Irene (Kevin Bernston and Andrea Syglowski) deliver a hilarious exchange in the opening scene. Carly Street is wonderful as Margo, an under appreciated worker in an office of all men who is near breaking point. Brian Dykstra plays Patrick, a surly customer who has been coming to the bar for years and is forecasting its demise. Nick and Lila are played convincingly by David Mason and Laura Latreille. Victoria Mack is Sam, the young art collector who turns heads as well as does deals. Finally, Brian D. Coats is cool, level-headed Barry, the only regular who seems to make any sense when he adds his two cents worth. Adrienne Campbell-Holt directs the play.
Rebeck’s choice of topic for her Denver Theatre Company commission is a timely one. The latest research from the U.K. praises the role the corner bar plays in people’s happiness, even though local taverns are on the decline. The study shows that people who gather in local pubs are “significantly” happier, and surprisingly, are less likely to drink too much. “Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and well-being,” said Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University. “Given the tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed accessible venues where people can meet old friends and make new ones becomes ever more necessary.”
For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org.