Embittered Irish Lads Pry into a Former Classmate’s Diary in Corrib Theatre’s “Spear”

Written by CN Smith, “Spear” shows how disappointment and resentment can boil over into bigotry.

Spear (Owen Carey)

Amir has done his people proud. After moving to a small Irish town as a preteen and surviving hazing as the only Black kid at his school, he has gone on to become a champion javelin thrower—not only breaking youth records, but entering the highest echelon of sports fame and winning an Olympic gold medal in his sport.

But Spear isn’t about Amir. It’s about Sean (Rocco Weyer), Joe (Ryan Edlinger) and Nate (Dylan Hankins), three of Amir’s secondary school mates, who have made a regular tradition of gathering in a park in their hometown, getting absolutely scuttered, and reminiscing about old times as they read from Amir’s diary.

Written by CN Smith and currently being staged by the Corrib Theatre, Spear takes “lad culture” to task, showing how disappointment and resentment can boil over into bigotry—and it works. Smith’s script, elevated by compelling performances, makes the members of our wayward trio distinct in their struggles while being united in their grievances.

The play alternates between conversations in the present and reenactments of the past, as Amir goes from outcast new kid to local hero while the lads get deeper and deeper in their cups, descending from uneasy nostalgia to painful self-loathing and delusion. Scene changes are marked by a prolonged clicking sound as the actors take a breath before dialogue resumes, as if the lads’ tradition of selective memory and transference is as much an exercise as Amir’s throwing—one that gets more difficult with each return.

That’s the secret to the trio’s hardships; they’re mostly doing fine, and whatever’s holding them back is in their own hands. Nate is living comfortably with his husband, but is still insecure about his lower-class background and can’t handle criticism of his work as a literary publisher. Joe has found success in real estate, but can’t deny that his work leads to gentrification, undercutting his lofty view of his own morals. Sean has married his high school sweetheart, but still lives with his parents and ardently refuses to grow up.

They could all find ways to settle their problems, but find more ease and satisfaction in denigrating Amir, the nobody who went on to surpass them all and leave them behind. That indignation and spite, more than anything else, is not only what’s holding them back, but creating a dangerous culture for people like Amir, who are already on the outs from the beginning.

Setwise, scenic designer Kyra Sanford turns 21Ten into a miniature theater in the round, letting the audience see the lads’ antics from all angles. It’s a bit cramped, to be sure, but it creates a distancing effect that works for characters like this. We’re meant to understand them, maybe even recognize them, but not to empathize—at least not fully—with their self-righteous pettiness.

While the cast hasn’t fully mastered their Irish accents, they communicate character and emotion regardless. Weyer proves to be the standout as Sean—not only because he’s onstage the longest of the three, but because he sells his character’s contradictions, especially in the play’s heartbreaking final moments.

By the end of Spear, the lads are reading entries from the diary that Amir wouldn’t—or indeed, couldn’t—possibly write, rife with obvious lies meant to puff up the trio’s self-importance. Again, the show isn’t about Amir, but about three men who, despite their statements to the contrary, are so perturbed by a Black man succeeding above them that they refuse to see the shortcomings in their own lives.

That’s the thing about bigots: As far as they’re concerned, they’re the real victims, even when they’ve never been hurt by their targets.

SEE IT: Spear plays at 21ten Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., 503-389-0579, corribtheatre.org. 7:30 pm Thursday–Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, through March 10. $35.

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