Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
With the stage bereft of gripping thrillers many theater goers have forgotten or never experienced the excitement possible only with a live crime drama. Thus upon hearing the basic premise of Ms. Gilman's play they're likely to view it as a theater piece masquerading as a movie or an episode from Law & Order: A woman goes on a blind date, writes the man off as not worth pursuing only to find him in hot pursuit, in fact, a dangerous stalker and the smart, independent New York career gal is transformed into a helpless victim. But while the situation is indeed something likely to crop up on the small or big screen, Boy Gets Girl is not a cheap thriller. Instead it is a skillfully crafted play that delves into serious contemporary issues without excessive moralizing. It fits the thriller genre but is not afraid to break from its conventions with an ending that fails to offer the customary neat solution to the crime or the victim's dilemma. Combine this with deft touches of humor, fully evolved characters and the little known, but well worth getting to know cast from the play's premiere production at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and you have two hours of theater with enough pluses to offset the occasional lapses into didacticism.
Mary Beth Fisher is dazzlingly human as Theresa Bedell, the thirty-something magazine writer who becomes embroiled in a blind date from hell. Attractive and independent, she's been too focused on her career to develop any relationships. It's been over a year since the last man in her life left for a far-flown longterm assignment and so she allows herself to be fixed up by a well-meaning former colleague. By the time she's finished her get-acquainted beer with Tony (Ian Lithgow) we know that she's too smart for the nice but awkward and overeager to please nerdy guy. Sophisticated and self-sufficient as she is, Theresa allows herself to be talked into one dinner date before telling Tony that she can't see him again. She tries to let him down easy by saying that she's too busy for any sort of relationship and it's only after he barrages her with unwanted flowers and barges into her office, apparently convinced he can change her mind, that she quire firmly and somewhat angrily rejects him..
The progression from a date that could be a comedy skit followed by Tony's floral barrage and the tense confrontation in Theresa's office stylishly prepares us for the shift in mood. What gives the play its impact is that as the situation turns genuinely ominous, with Boy Gets Girl becoming a case of Boy Hurts Girl, Ms. Gilman never sacrifices characterization to chills and thrills. In fact, it is the way the trauma of the stalking unpacks layer after layer of Theresa's psyche that lifts the play out of psychodrama-case history and into a genuinely human drama.
Ian Lithgow's Tony is an interesting mix of gallantry and gaucheness. His slightly too loud and too intense manner almost immediately contradict the American as apple pie nice guy first impression. The rest of the cast takes makes the most of the meaty parts given them: Matt DeCaro as Theresa's boss Howard . . . David Adkins as her writing colleague Mercer . . . Howard Witt as Les Kennkat, one of Theresa's interview subjects who's trying to relaunch the cheap sex film career born out of his passion for big-breasted women. . . Shayna Ferm's as the air-headed and indadvertently destructive office assistant . . . Ora Jones as the over-burdened, sympathetic policewoman assigned to the case. The filmmaker and the secretary are the comic relief characters and Witt especially, turns what could easily be a cartoon into a marvelous portrait of a thoroughly likeable old lecher with his heart in the right place.
The plot has its lapses. The setup of the workplace somehow lacks complete authenticity. Ms. Gilman's tendency to give everyone of her characters equal time for reacting to her issues bring lapses in the tension and but not enough to detract from the building tension. Her very open-ended finale may disappoint conventional crime story fans, but it will leave you with plenty to chew over vis-a-vis the potentially dangerous effect of the objectification of women and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement afencies to protect victims of the resulting crimes. legal system to protect victims. The play's design, like the cast, is also a carryover from the Chicago staging. Michael Phillip's revolving set (outdoor cafe bar and restaurant of the disastrous date, Theresa's office and Les Kennkat's, Theresa's apartment and Kenkat's hospital room) add a cinematic expansiveness to the action. The old porno king and the ditzy secretary are especially well served by Nan Cibula-Jenkins' costumes. Though director Michael Maggio did not live to supervise the transfer, MTC's Lynne Meadow as supervisor, has remained true to his very solid direction.
It's more than likely that Boy Gets Girl will enjoy many other productions after it completes its curret run. While it is likely to stir much discussion it's not likely to do much to promote the popularity of the blind date.
Spinning Into Butter