Boy Gets Girl, by Rebecca Gilman, begins with a casual meeting between a man (Kevin Bundy) and a woman (Seana McKenna). It is all natural enough until near the end of the encounter when we sense that he is rather needy. He is too insistent that they keep in touch, too determined to include her in his life. The tension created by this terrible uneasiness promises to become the beginning of a provocative discussion of stalking. Unfortunately, the play that follows this scene gets lost in its own ideas and the writer loses her way by mixing styles enough to confuse the whole enterprise.
And I'm not sure that the venue is not in some important way a contributing factor. The Bluma Appel stage and auditorium too often succeed in trapping designers to try to fill the space where less would certainly be welcome. Only rarely, as with The Overcoat or Picasso at the Lapin Agile, has the space been exploited to serve the work rather than the other way round. The former opened the space as though for dance and the latter closed off much of the stage in favour of focussing the audience's eyes and mind. Perhaps had Peter Hartwell (designer) and Miles Potter (director) resisted the massive turntable and the expanse of space that forces actors to try acting across far too much open air, we might have been more carefully drawn into the sordid world of how men always 'get' women.
But I also find too many scripted moments where Gilman, herself, is not willing to follow her own ideas. She begins so well, and McKenna and Bundy play their first encounter with the right balance of drive and caution. But then the language shifts to a style far less naturalistic and far more self-conscious. Theresa, the McKenna character, works with several male colleagues who strive to support her. But they say and do things that are transparently thoughtless, words and actions coming from the writer more than they do the characters she creates. It feels too much as though the playwright is groping for ways to bend the characters to her themes. And sure, this is what writers do, but a glaring awareness of the writer at work is nothing more than distracting.
Two other characters come and go: a porno filmmaker and a detective. The former, played by Eric Peterson, is amusing, if rather unnecessary. The latter, played by Satori Shakoor, is either written or played to be unblinkered in her unfeeling comments. The scenes with her begin to feel more satiric than real, and as with the Peterson character, these moments distract us from rather than draw us deeper into the play's purpose.
The final scenes, which reveal the extent to which the stalker is prepared to destroy the woman's world, fail to startle or to disturb us because they fall victim to exposition without action. There is no doubt that Ms.Gilman could have raised the temperature considerably and that she chose to avoid staging a final, grotesque confrontation between the two. But having elected to keep the man in the wings, she has sacrificed a visceral response which, in turn, might have contributed to a genuine emotional truth. As it is, the play creaks under the weight of the revolving stage.
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