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Boys' Life & Boy Gets Girl

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Brandon Walker and Logan Keeler
Photo by Russ Rowland
When it comes to the battle of the sexes, forget the Mars/Venus analogy. Men, it seems, are from Fantasy Land, while women are from Reality World. Truly, they see things in entirely different ways —some of them potentially quite damaging. That is the message that resonates in the double bill of plays being mounted by The Seeing Place at The Clarion Theatre: Howard Korder's Boys' Life from 1988, and Rebecca Gilman's Boy Gets Girl from 2000.

As long as the post-college "boys" in the episodic Boys' Life—Jack (Brandon Walker), Don (Alex Witherow), and Phil (Logan Keeler)—are with their own kind, their slacker/stoner antics fit the pattern we've come to recognize as a bromantic comedy. The opening scene takes place in Don's apartment, which still has a disheveled dorm room look. The three are in various stages of alcohol-and-pot-inspired conversations about their respective lives and sexual conquests, with Jack, a lounge lizard-type who teeters along the line between friendly banter and outright belligerence, serving as goader-in-chief.

All right. Huddled in their man caves with their buds, their rants and posturing are harmless enough. It's when they interact with actual women that problems arise, and the lies they tell one another (and themselves) take on very real consequences.

Don, who is inching toward some mature stability in his life, gets together with Lisa (Brisa Frietas), a relationship with serious possibilities that is all but derailed when he picks up another woman for a one-night stand. The most telling line, and the dominant theme of the play, lies in Don's honest response when Lisa finds out: "I wanted to see if I could get away with it; that's what a man would do." For his part, Phil seems the most willing to buy into Jack's BS advice, and he makes one fumbling effort after the other with women. We mostly see him as a harmless doofus, until he makes a most disturbing confession near the end of the play. We also find that Jack may be a more complex character than we realize.

Boys' Life tells its story well, but it is trapped within the format of brief scenes that prevent it from digging very deeply into what makes the characters tick. We know very little about Jack, Don, and Phil other than what we can garner from the snapshot glimpses we are given.

John D'Arcangelo and Erin Cronican
Photo by Russ Rowland
Ms. Gilman's Boy Gets Girl, on the other hand, is a more fully developed work that presents very realistic and believable characters that we come to know and respect, along with a most disturbing situation that is, likewise, realistic and believable.

Boy Gets Girl opens with that most awkward of occasions, the blind date. Theresa (Erin Cronican, giving a richly layered and naturalistic performance) is a writer whose life is focused on her work with a New York cultural magazine. She has agreed to having a couple of beers with the awkward but boyishly charming Tony (Daniel Michael Perez). Theresa is not entirely taken with Tony, but she agrees to meet for dinner later that week.

It is over dinner that she decides this is not going to work out. She backs away as diplomatically as she can while still making it abundantly clear that she does not want to see Tony again. But Tony is unreceptive to the rebuff, and he continues to pursue Theresa in an increasingly aggressive manner, until it is quite clear that he is a sexual stalker.

The play could, of course, devolve into a simplistic "Lifetime Movie" script, but Ms. Gilman is a far better writer than that. She has made Tony a lurker in the background, and she has surrounded Theresa with other men whose behavior she views at first as intrusive, but who turn out to be her firmest allies. These include one of the other writers at the magazine, Mercer (Brandon Walker), and her editor Howard (Einar Gunn). Even more surprising is the connection she makes with someone she reluctantly agrees to interview, Les (John D'Arcangelo), the aging maker of soft porn movies who has become something of a cult hero. Les seems to be about as sleazy as you might expect, but, like the others, he shows surprising depth, and Theresa ultimately and surprisingly warms to him.

Still, this is a play without a happy ending. A sympathetic police detective (Virginia Gregory) helps Theresa get a restraining order against Tony, but the threats continue to escalate untilĀ—fearing for her lifeĀ—Theresa is forced to abandon her home, her job, her city, and her identity. Other than a brief side trip into a bit of polemics, Boy Gets Girl is an exceptionally well-written play, with dialog that rings true. Even the title, when you think about the many potential interpretations of the word "get," perfectly captures the play's themes —from the romantic notion of "getting together," to the threatening definition of "get," to the idea that sometimes men can actually "get" women by showing empathy the way that Mercer and Howard learn to do.

With this pair of plays, and especially with Boy Gets Girl, which boasts excellent performances all around, The Seeing Place and its founders Ms. Cronican and Mr. Walker (she directs Boys' Life and he the Gilman play) display a remarkable level of maturity as a theatrical enterprise in this, only its sixth season. This is definitely a company to watch.

Boys' Life & Boy Gets Girl
Through August 2
The Seeing Place at The Clarion Theatre, 309 East 26th Street at 2nd Avenue
Boys' Life Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix
Boy Gets Girl Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix

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