Thursday, August 7, 2008

Boys' Life

Boys' Life is basically a show about boys behaving badly. There's not a lot to be said about the plot: one guy cheats on his girlfriend, then marries her; one guy is married, but plans an affair; one guy falls desperately in love with a woman who isn't interested in him. What carries it are the characters. They are well-drawn and well-acted. The best is easily Jack (the married man trying to have an affair with a jogger), played by Jesse Bastian. Basically, he's a big douchebag. He's thoroughly repugnant. Yet his friends, on the rare occasions when they try to call him on his douchebagginess, are always unable to point to a single thing he's done. Nothing he ever does is overt enough for them to call him on it -- it's always little things, like asking what their girlfriend's breasts are like whenever they talk to him about their relationship problems. (I'd like to touch on other members of the cast, who were also strong, but I have to run.)

Boys' Life has a lot of great things going for it, but sometimes the show's strengths are also its weaknesses. The dialogue is very random and colorful and all over-the-place. The characters go off on tangents at the drop of a hat, with jogger Maggie (played by Christen Atwood) suddenly complaining about her body-waxing boyfriend, or the dreadlocked Phil (Jake Wiest) rambling from the Statue of Liberty to fetuses in one memorable monologue. Some of these tangential conversations are set up on purpose, to illustrate our boys behaving badly. For example: "I feel all rotten and swollen on the inside. I love you." "I wanted to see if I could get away with it. I want to marry you." At first seems very innovative, very realistic and slice-of-life -- almost a statement about how people tend to talk past each other instead of to each other. And the rambling nature of the conversations are sometimes the setup for some very funny punchlines. But eventually it starts to wear thin, as it becomes increasingly hard for even audience members to tell what the characters are talking about. These moments could have been better if the play were paced a little better. Not everything needs a dramatic pause. The Statue of Liberty monologue and the two passages I've quoted were perfectly timed. But other sections could have used some tightening; the show just felt long after a while. The nature of these conversations and the pacing issues had me laughing my ass off at some moments, and then completely bored and puzzled a few minutes later.

No comments: