Award-winning playwright Lucas Hnath’s new work, “Red Speedo” dives off the starting block with the discovery of a cooler full of performance-enhancing drugs. The action revolves around Ray, a swimmer who is on the eve of the Olympic trials. If he makes the team, he’ll earn a lucrative deal with Speedo, setting him up for a life of success as he fights to achieve his own version of the American dream.
However, when the drugs are found, Ray and all those who circle around him are thrown into the murky waters in this pool-side drama that explores the battle between building a family and the business of winning at any cost.
Jaylene Clark Owens, of Flashpoint Theatre Company’s Barrymore-nominated ensemble from “The Most Spectacular Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington,” plays Lydia, Ray’s ex-girlfriend who tries to win him back at any cost.
“Even though I’m not on stage much, my character plays a pivotal part in the action,” Owens said. “She’s very different from the kinds of roles I’m used to playing, but I think it’s that very difference that makes the role so enjoyable for me.”
Owens, a highly acclaimed poet from Harlem, N.Y., received her BFA in Acting from Ithica College. She is a first place Apollo Theater Amateur Night winner for her poetry.
Additionally, Owens is the executive director of Harlem KW Project LLC, a theatrical company she co-founded with three other women to create the play about gentrification in Harlem, titled “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale.”
Alfred Preisser, one of her teachers at the Harlem School of the Arts College Preparatory Program, called and asked if she could create a show based on the killer whale/gentrification metaphor.
“I jumped at the chance and co-wrote it with the three women who later co-found our Harlem Theatre,” Owens explained, “and it a took off from there.”
In addition to writing, Owens is also a professional performer. Some of her recent credits include “Marcus,” “On the Secret Side of Sweet,” “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream” and others.
“I have many interests,” Owens said, “but poetry and acting are my two true loves.”
After this show at Theatre Exile, Owens said she has more plans, including performing at other venues in Philly as well as attending to her own show in New York. And she advises others to keep planning and never abandoning their dreams.
“The theater isn’t always very friendly so if it’s your dream, your true passion, don’t abandon it. Work hard and always be prepared,” she urged.
Theatre Exile begins its season with the Philadelphia premiere of “Red Speedo,” running through Nov. 23 at Theatre Exile’s Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St.