In the second show of LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed’s (TU) 2015 season, Boy Gets Girl continues the company’s necessary and noteworthy campaign to push the conversation of gender politics forward, and it excels at that mission in spades. While the inaugural play of TU’s 2015 season, Ligature Marks, enveloped audiences into a visceral and dynamic display of codependent relationships, Boy Gets Girl is, instead, a conversation starter, serving audiences with a veritable feast of literal, real-world manifestations of our society’s assigned gender roles and the damage that their furtherance and adherence can have, allowing viewers to deal with the contemplative issues in their own way. As with Ligature Marks, I will again caution readers that the subject matter of the show may be unsettling for some and inappropriate for younger viewers, yet it is the extremely unsettling response that viewers will undoubtedly have to Boy Gets Girl that emphasizes and illustrates the damaging societal norms that are ingrained in today’s world.
Written by playwright Rebecca Gilman (Spinning into Butter, The Glory of Living), Boy Gets Girl portrays a story of an innocent blind date that quickly turns into a dangerous obsession. Under the skilled direction of Jacob Smith (also the director of TU’s Ligature Marks), the audience meets Theresa (a successful magazine writer) and Tony (a computer technician) as they meet one another for a first date in New York City. While their incompatibility soon becomes evident for both the audience and Theresa, Tony remains woefully unaware of the missing spark, instead falling head-over-heels in love with his own illusion of what he wants Theresa to be. When doing her best to gracefully excuse herself from their second date, Theresa sees a glimpse of the danger that lives within Tony, unable to come to terms with his unrequited love and the relationship that *could* be. What follows is a horrifically real and terrifyingly disturbing series of events that finds Theresa the object of Tony’s obsession – with adoration and persistence leading to anger, fury, and vengeance.
In contemplating Boy Gets Girl, I am left with two very strong reactions: 1) the frightened feelings that reverberated through me both during and after the performance as a result of Tony’s constantly escalating advances and, perhaps more impactful, 2) the connections made with and empathy felt for Theresa, as she was forced to become a victim of both a stalker and a society that creates and encourages such unhealthy constructs for men and women. Interestingly, Tony’s presence throughout the performance is rather minimal, and yet the fear of his return and his next attack loom large over the entire show. His presence is always felt, causing a feeling of inescapable fear that strips Theresa of her individuality, instead, leaving her feeling like an object that is to be obtained. Theresa becomes the fear, as there is no room for anything else.
To the latter point, though, too often is Theresa informed that her actions and words to Tony, however benign, are the cause of his obsession. She is constantly reminded that her mere existence as a woman, whose beauty is too enticing and whose willingness to accept fault leaves room for hope of a relationship, is to blame. How does one live in a society where you are damned for an aspect of yourself that cannot be changed? The play excels at examining this question and, rather than laying blame with any one individual or societal group, forces the audience to question the norms with which we, as a society, have come to accept and follow with regard to gender roles.
In the midst of this extraordinarily thought-providing play, the audience will easily lose sight of the fact that you are watching extremely talented players perform. The entire ensemble’s incredible focus and purpose to tell this story drag the audience into the action, forcing us not only to dwell in the fear that has become Theresa’s existence but to question everything that we have taken for granted when it comes to everyday interactions. While the supporting cast created a solid base for the show to stand, every commendation should be granted to Ivy Khan, the actress who perfectly embodied not only Theresa, but every individual – woman and man – who has experienced the repercussions of a society that does not embrace them.
While ruminating on this review on my way to work this morning, the impact and omnipresence of Boy Gets Girl‘s themes were reiterated as a voice shouted, “Hey, beautiful lady! You’re lookin’ goooood today,” while I walked across the street. As a woman, does society tell me that I am to feel honored by this display of adulation, because the opposing feelings of shame, disgust, and embarrassment are hard to ignore. Like it or not, Gilman has succeeded in highlighting the quandaries that plague our world, and the answers – or perhaps the journey to search for them – are rightfully left for us to answer.
Tomorrow night will see the final performance of Boy Gets Girl at Theatre Unleashed at The Belfry Stage (Upstairs) in North Hollywood, CA. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend attending the performance, as it would be a shame to miss this incredible analysis of today’s most pressing issues. For those unable to attend, I have every faith that the remainder of TU’s 2015 season will maintain its phenomenal level of quality and excellence while pushing compulsory conversations forward. Tickets are $20 each and are available online or at the door. Be sure to visit the Theatre Unleashed website for further details.
*Please note that the theatre is located upstairs, and, unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible.