You’ve probably had one or two blind dates from hell. You know the kind of fixer upper by a well meaning friend or friend of your second cousin who has the perfect match for you. You meet for a drink, maybe dinner, and five minutes into the evening you have an uneasy feeling. You made a mistake saying “yes” and are ready to settle for a good book and cup of tea every evening for the rest of your life.
But what if the guy doesn’t get the message after you gently tell him “thanks, but no thanks?” Playwright Rebecca Gilman answers that question in her compelling, two-act drama Boy Gets Girl. Actor’s Theatre of New Orleans (ATNO) presents a thrilling, fast-paced interpretation of the work, produced off-Broadway in 2001, in its regional premiere. Boy Gets Girl begins with a basic blind date - two people meeting in a public place exchanging a few moments of awkward conversation over a beer. Soon, the casual encounter escalates into a nasty stalking situation. It’s not difficult to anticipate plot development after the first scene or two, but it’s the dialogue and action in between opening and final curtain that makes a difference in Gilman’s story.
Directors Chelle Ambrose and Rene J.F Piazza approach the contemporary drama in a straightforward manner. No fancy sets, no distracting costumes and no star-studded cast taking away from a satisfying and stimulating depiction of the stalking dilemma. That’s what makes ATNO’s production effective – stalking could happen to you or someone you care about. No one in the cast takes your breath away; the stage design is fundamental with just the bare necessitates against a black curtain. But that’s not as important as the scripted journey moving you from the feeling of eavesdropping on a bar conversation to the disturbing anxiety escalating with subsequent scenes.
The cast could be a little crisper in demonstrating fear, anger, self-reflection and indecision, but the punchy, and sometimes raunchy, dialogue is handled with extreme clarity and smooth movements on ATNO’s small stage.
Stalking victim and magazine reporter Theresa Bedell, portrayed by Anysia Manthos, is appropriate as a young career woman. Women will identify with her hesitation to follow through an agreement to have a drink with Tony Ross, played by Matthew Carroll. As the plot develops, Manthos subtly metamorphoses from a confident journalist to a tense, edgy female questioning her decisions as well as the conflicting perspectives men and woman have about each other. Her final scene is not as emotionally powerful as I would have expected or would have liked to see, but that may be Ambrose and Piazza’s call – who knows how a stalking victim reacts when daily life is out of control? Perhaps numbness, resolve and lack of energy are what are intended.
Carroll brings a fresh scrubbed face and agility to the stage as the stalker. His boyish, all-American look and early on eager to please personality draws you in – at first. You know, the kind of co-worker you don’t want to encourage but you can’t help but be nice to him? That’s what you get with Tony Ross. But just as the object of his desire realizes she is in big trouble, Carroll transforms into a young man to fear. If you want to see what the expression “anger in his eyes” looks like, he’s the guy.
There is comic relief in the Gilman drama and Earl Scioneaux Jr. as Les Kennkat, takes on the grossly funny lines with an at-ease, experienced stage presence. A cult-film and video producer known for his breast fixations, Kennkat strikes up a like you/hate you relationship with Theresa when she is assigned to interview him. The banter between the two not only lightens up the show but also highlights the age-old differences between men and women.
Jessi Norton also generates a few laughs as the naïve secretary Harriet with a bubbly, “I don’t have a clue” presentation.
Rikki Gee portrays Detective Madeleine Beck in a refreshing, conversational tone and I look forward to seeing how she might manage other, more challenging, roles.
Brian Collins and Danny Ladmirault as Theresa’s co-worker and boss, respectively, are adequate in roles demonstrating support and concern for her situation. However, they don’t reflect the increasing empathy I heard in the script. But did I hear that from the woman’s perspective? Are they acting from the male perspective?
A highlight of this production is the music transitioning scene changes. Sound Designers Chelle Ambrose and Jeff Peters have selected an excellent diversity of music choices apropos for the storyline.
More than anything, ATNO’s production of Boy Gets Girl illustrates that you don’t need a gigantic budget and a name-recognition marquee to bring quality theatre to the community. If you’re interested in seeing a well-written play you might not have seen before or something that you won’t see very often, put Boy Gets Girl on your list and check out upcoming productions.
Back Row Facts
Length of Play – two and a half hours with a 15-minute intermission. In by 7:30 and in your car no later than 10:05.
Language and Lewd Factor – a generous share of vulgarity and some strong graphic details necessary to the plot.
Family Fitness – as ATNO recommends, for mature audiences only. A good lesson, however, about stalking and related dangers.
It’s a puzzlement! Why do men send flowers to women? What do women really think when they receive flowers? Boy Gets Girl will have you thinking about the why and when of exchanging floral arrangements.