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A CurtainUp Review

New Boy
By Eunice Marquet

An arresting opening is essential when addressing boys
--- Mark
 Todd Swenson as Barry
Todd Swenson as Barry br> (Photo: Charles Hart )
Based on the novel by William Sutcliffe, New Boy crosses the pond to make its American debut at the Lion Theatre which is part of the newly renovated Theatre Row Theatre complex. The comfortable 90-seat space is just right for viewing this intimate play.

Mark is a 17-year old adolescent who is anxious to finally get his sex life jump-started. When the very attractive "new boy" Barry begins classes at Mark's all boys school, the two become fast friends. This new relationship allows Mark the opportunity to experience his hormonal aspirations vicariously through Barry's exploits. Barry meanwhile, has no problem seducing members of the opposite sex. Be it the students of the neighboring girls school, or members of the faculty, Barry's sexual ventures run fast and furious. Through it all, the two boys develop a very close bond that could ultimately change the course of their lives.

New Boy has one of the best opening monologues I've seen. Adapted by Director Russell Labey, it is well-structure, witty and sly. The scenes are touching, funny and sometimes painful as you watch your worst juvenile fears played out on stage.

Keep in mind however, it is a coming-of-age play about teenage boys. As such, it deals with all of the predictable adolescent worries: feelings of inadequacy, pressures to reach their full potential and all of the anxieties and embarrassments related to sex. Replace the warm apple pie with a milk bottle full of chopped liver and you have the British version of American Pie.

Neil Henry carries the show as the main character, Mark. You could not ask for a more capable and jovial guide. Henry has a brilliant sense of comedic timing. His asides routinely keep the audience in stitches. The object of Mark's affections, Barry, is played by Todd Swenson who is perfectly cast as the young heartthrob. Peter Russo served double duty as Mark's brother Dan as well as "School Animal." Dana Acheson displays impressive versatility in four distinctive roles. The cast is rounded out with Lisa Barnes as Mrs. Mumford, the French Teacher who is searching for an escape from her humdrum life.

The only rough spots in the evening occur during the scene transitions. At the performance I attended stagehands were caught on stage when the lights came up, set pieces were in the wrong places. These problems, which jolted the flow of the piece almost like a car you can't get into gear will no doubt solve themselves during the course of the run.

All of the design elements serve the play well. Designers Mark T. Simpson and Christopher Mahlmann have come up with a rather clever solution for meeting the challenge of creating a number of locations for a very small space. The simple and stylish set, consisting of a number of colored panels, is intentionally neutral. The differentiation between locations is done through the use of some well thought-out gobos.

New Boy is the inaugural production for East Park Productions which is committed to developing and producing plays modeled after London's fringe theatre. This production is a fine way for them to enter the scene. Let's hope that their standard of excellence catches on.

New Boy
Written by William Sutcliffe
Adapted and Directed by Russell Labey
Cast: Neil Henry (Mark), Todd Swenson (Barry), Peter Russo (Dan and School Animal), Dana Acheson (Louise, Operator and various girls) and Lisa Barnes (Mrs. Mumford)
Set/Lighting Design: Mark T. Simpson
Lighting Design: Christopher Mahlmann
Costume Design: Mattie Ullrich
Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, no intermission
The Lion Theatre at the Theatre Row Theatre Complex (410 West 42nd Street) Tickets $15; (212) 279-4200
4/24/03 - 5/18/03 opening 4/24/03
Thursday through Sunday at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM.
Additional performance on Wednesday, May 14 at 8PM. Reviewed by Eunice Marquet based on April 24th performance
Reopening at the Beckett Theatre 410 West 42nd Street-- 5/28/03

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