Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's reviews of Hamilton, The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats, Kelli O'Hara with Seth Rudetsky, It's Only a Play
Set in Montignac, France, with the adult men in the town off fighting in the war, Cave Boys is centered around a group of teenage boys who face issues of friendship, trust and loyalty. Teenager Jacques and his friends would rather play sports and explore than study in class. When the new boy Franck, a refugee who says his family came to town from their home on the French/German border, tries to befriend the group of teen boys, Jacques doesn't know if he can be trusted. What if Franck is really a German spy? The boys' discovery of a series of cave drawings also makes Jacques uncertain who he can trust, and even if anyone will believe that the paintings exist.
Negri uses numerous short and well written scenes to develop the characters and quickly move the plot forward. Just like her exceptional Girls Who Wear Glasses, Negri's new play also focuses on the struggles of adolescence and the issue of teenage friendships. Her interesting narrative adds an appropriate heightened sense of the effects of the war on both this group of young boys and the other people in the town.
Kosnik's direction of his mostly college-age cast is fairly good. Joey Whelan, Jason Jones and Larak Rogers play Jacques and his friends Simon and Georges, respectively, and all portray the rambunctious and excitable characteristics of teenage boys with ease. Only a few times are the outbursts slightly unrealistic and forced. Taylor McMurray is Franck and does well as the quiet outsider while Emily Wood and Ric Alpers are good as Jacques' caring mother and the boys' inquisitive teacher.
Creative elements are very good. Keath Hall's expansive set design uses a turntable to move fairly quickly between the three locations of the play: Jacques' home, the boy's schoolroom, and the cave. Miranda Loeber's costume design uses a collection of period sweaters, vests and clothing to effectively set the time and location. Erik H. Reid's lighting works well to portray the darkened areas of the caves, the bright classroom scenes, and the late night scenes at Jacques' home. Andrea Robertson's fight choreography is exceptionally realistic.
Much is said in the play about the immigrants who have come to Montignac from places far away and the confusion about whether they can be trusted or if their intentions are suspicious, and the similarity to the current plight of immigrants to the U.S. is especially relevant. Negri's Cave Boys makes a fine addition to her body of plays for young audiences and PVCC's world premiere production features a cast, direction, and creative elements that do justice to the important historical and true story on which the play is based.
Cave Boys, through February 4th, 2018, at the Paradise Valley Community College Center for the Performing Arts, 18401 North 32nd Street in Phoenix AZ. Tickets and information can be found at http://paradisevalley.edu/cpa or by calling (602) 787-7738
Playwright: Anne Negri