Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Girls and Boys

Feminist. Body image. Cougar. Needy. Pushy. Family. Biological clock. These words--which immediately make one think of women--are written on a white panel on the left side of the set on which Howard Korder's Boys' Life and Rebecca Gilman's Boy Gets Girl are playing in rep through August 2. On the right of the stage is a similar panel with labels like narcissism, player, bro-mance, weakness, chiseled, testosterone, and nice guy. And in the middle is vocabulary for what happens when men and women interact--hope, friend zone, awkward, fear, marriage, and compromise. Different terms resonate in each scene in The Seeing Place Theater's thoughtful productions, directed by Erin Cronican (Boys' Life) and Brandon Walker (Boy Gets Girl).
Natalie Neckyfarow, Logan Keeler, and Brandon Walker in Boys' Life. Photo credit: Russ Rowland
In Boys' Life, the words on the male panel draw attention to the way Jack (Walker), Phil (Logan Keeler), and Don (Alex Witherow) want others to see them and the ways they are afraid of being perceived. Written in 1988 and nominated for a Pulitzer, the play presented as a series of vignettes probably felt more groundbreaking at the time. It hasn't aged well and might make more sense as a period piece (characters in this production have iPods and cell phones). It's hard to have sympathy for any of these men who behave in deplorable ways as a means to sex or the women, who let themselves be treated poorly. Sure, people like this still exist, but Boys' Life on its own doesn't say anything that interesting about them. So it is smart of The Seeing Place to pair it with a better play.
Daniel Michael Perez and Erin Cronican in Boy Gets Girl. Photo credit: Russ Rowland
Boy Gets Girl premiered in Chicago in 2000 and is still terrifying and relevant today. Journalist Theresa Bedell (Cronican, giving one of the evening's most powerful performances) goes on a decent blind date with Tony (Daniel Michael Perez) and agrees to a second date. After she realizes that there is no chemistry there, she tells him politely that work makes relationships impossible. He doesn't take no for an answer and continues to call and send flowers, even show up at her office. Gilman, with believable dialogue, hits on something really troubling in society about what is thought of as normal male behavior. It takes Theresa's coworkers some time to be seriously concerned, at first thinking Tony is sweetly persistent.

One of her coworkers, Mercer (Walker), has a theory that men are conditioned from the movies that women will reject them and then have to be chased before being won over. Though the characters in Boys' Life aren't as insane as Tony, it sets up this idea. Clearly the company has thought a lot about how the two works can have a conversation with each other, which should extend to conversations after the shows.

Boys' Life is 90 minutes and Boy Gets Girl is 120 minutes. Neither has an intermission, but there is a 30 minute break in between the two. Tickets are only $15 for each.

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