Nerve, a play by American playwright Adam Szymkowicz, was written in 2003 when Internet dating was just becoming popular. The context is that of a first date in a pub and appropriately it’s performed upstairs at the Elephant British Pub in Adelaide.

Elliot (Tom Gentry) and Susan (Katherine Silbereisen) are clearly new at this Internet dating thing and are both shy and awkward as they first meet and down a couple of quick beers. The talk of a first kiss is both embarrassing and an icebreaker. The tension and power play between the pair is palpable.

Unexpectedly, a knife is produced from Susan’s bag, which Elliot uses to carve their initials into the table. The relationship is here, now and into the future. The play is an interesting study of how two people expose themselves and protect themselves and their ego; two people together, yet alone.

Confidence is quickly followed by insecurity, flattery suddenly becomes offence. As each life is exposed to the other, they each become braver and more sure of themselves. There is an ebb and flow of emotions as the two profess their love, but the audience is never sure which way the final outcome will be. The story has a clever weave of trust and misinterpretation that fosters raw emotion.

Nerve is rather voyeuristic, as if we have overheard an intimate conversation, yet it touches on universal themes of love and trust. An added layer to the story is the reality of mental illness, which is treated with respect and candour.

Both actors were very convincing in their respective roles and a soundtrack of local Adelaide bands curated by Sound Designer Samuel Rodda was effective as a backdrop to the performance.

Ikag Productions has done a wonderful job in bringing this contemporary New York play to an Adelaide audience, so get along to see it, as it is worthy of your support.

Nerve plays at the Elephant British Pub until 15th June. More information and tickets HERE.

4 stars

By John Goodridge