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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Premiere Stages Boy Gets Girl Gets it Right

Boy Gets Girl
John M. Vasquez III
and Erica Sheffer

Premiere Stages, the fledgling professional theatre company at Kean University in Union, proves its mettle with a very solid, convincingly naturalistic production of Rebecca Gillman's Boy Gets Girl.

Over the past five years, author Rebecca Gilman has emerged as a much praised and produced writer. She has received commissions for her work from major theaters on both sides of the Atlantic (the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and London’s Royal Court). Boy Gets Girl has been a major part of the Gilman phenomenon.

Boy Gets Girl is a very frightening play about a New York career woman (magazine writer) who accepts a blind date with Mr. Wrong. Our Theresa reluctantly agrees to a friend’s insistence that she meet Tony, who proves to be a computer technician. When Theresa realizes early on that she is just not interested in pursuing a relationship with Tony, she tells him so immediately as gently and courteously as anyone possibly could. However, from the gentle and innocuous appearing Tony, there slowly emerges a much darker, obsessive and disturbed creature who will wreak havoc on Theresa’s life and psyche.

Gilman’s play functions on two levels. It is both a thriller, and a treatise on gender politics. The play is not perfect. It is extremely attenuated, and, in the first act, as the scenes repeatedly alternate between the center stage set of Theresa’s office and the stage left setting of a series of other New York locations, there is a certain metronomic feel to the action. The gender politics is thought provoking. One could plausibly argue that this is just one of those quirky, unfortunate situations wherein a woman gets involved with a nut case. However, Gilman very adroitly ties Tony’s behavior to adolescent macho values, attitudes and expectations which a jock-worshiping, male-dominated society promulgates.

The view here is that the greatest strength of Boy Gets Girl is that it is genuinely scary. One reason is the believability of Theresa’s character and situation. Unlike the victims in the contrived and mechanically manipulative “thrillers” that clutter movie screens, Theresa conducts herself in a perfectly reasonable and intelligent manner. Another is the caliber of the performances elicited by director John Wooten.

Erica Sheffer engagingly conveys the complex mixture of smooth confidence and fear of relationships which Theresa initially brings to the table, and then proceeds to convincingly portray the stripping away of her ability to cope and function in well nuanced, incremental steps over the course of the play. John M. Vasquez III manages to subtly enable the audience to feel the growing menace in his behavior without resorting to histrionics. When Tony becomes truly threatening, he is no longer a physical presence in the play, but Vasquez’s performance has naturalistically established his menacing aura.

Carl Wallnau as Theresa’s civilized, sympathetic editor Howard Siegel, and Chris Henry Coffey as a writer colleague each give smooth, convincing performances. Unfortunately, both Wallnau and Coffey have to give voice to Gilman’s weakest lines. Gilman burdens them with dialogue which is schematic and unnatural in order to express the play’s view that all men in their actions and ideation are taught to be predatory toward women.

Lacey Jones gives a quirky and delightful interpretation of Harriet, a foolish young office assistant whose incompetence contributes to the horror at hand. Holly Rhoades is fine as a determinedly professional, but frustrated and sympathetic police detective. James Alyward as a Russ Meyer-like director of flicks featuring busty femmes is amusing and on target, but his second act scene unnecessarily extends a play which would benefit from tightening.

This is a gripping, thought provoking play. If you have yet to encounter the work of Rebecca Gillman, Boy Gets Girl makes a fine introduction to her growing body of work. Premiere Stages is to be congratulated for producing it in so fine a fashion.

Boy Gets Girl continues performances through September 25, 2005 at Premiere Stages at Kean University (Wilkins Theatre), 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, NJ 07083, Box Office: 908-737-4353; online: www.kean.edu/premierestages.

Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gillman; directed by John Wooten.

Cast: (in order of appearance):
Theresa Bedell……………Erika Sheffer
Tony……….............John M. Vasquez III
Howard Siegel…………..Carl Wallnau
Mercer Stevens…..Chris Henry Coffey
Harriet………………………Lacey Jones
Madeleine Beck………..Holly Rhoades
Les Kinnkat……………James Alyward


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- Bob Rendell



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