Modern romance in ‘Boy Gets Girl’ at Enter Stage Right
PORT HURON, Mich.–We usually go to the theatre to be amused, entertained and moved; sometimes we go to learn something, to be challenged or simply to see a particularly great performer. The best experiences often come when we are surprised by what we take away from a show.
With Boy Gets Girl, produced by Enter Stage Right at The Citadel Stage here, playwright Rebecca Gilman delivers an intense and provocative script highlighting a serious subject—the psychological effects and physical ramifications of criminal stalking, presented from multiple viewpoints. It is worth noting that director Tom Kephart and six of the seven cast members produced this show together in 2015 at St. Clair County Community College. It emotionally affected them as a team to the point that they were compelled to reunite and present it here.
This is the story of Theresa Bedell (Leah Gray), a late twenty-something magazine journalist. Theresa agrees to a blind date arranged by a friend, who is only barely acquainted with the date Tony (Jonathon Slease). Theresa and Tony are both admittedly nervous, and they share a similar awkward sense of humor, but by the second date Theresa is certain it is going nowhere and politely declines to see Tony again.
Theresa becomes more firm in her rebuff after receiving a few deliveries of flowers and several phone messages from Tony. When he arrives at her office to ask her to lunch, it initially seems that Tony just can’t take “no” for an answer; the misunderstanding quickly escalates when Tony becomes unhinged with anger and begins knocking over furniture.
Over the next several weeks, Tony’s unwanted attention graduates to harassment and physical threats. When Theresa confides in her editor Howard (Owen McIntyre) and co-worker Mercer (Brennan Fisher), they convince her to contact the police, and the detective who takes her case (Cortney Roles) advises her to take what Theresa considers drastic measures to mitigate the threat from Tony, while also trying to convince Theresa that she is not to blame for her situation.
In the midst of this stalking, Theresa suffers physically from lack of sleep, and her work deteriorates. She also undergoes mental anguish, both from fear and self doubt. She not only blames herself for her situation, but begins questioning her past decisions and her very role as a female in modern society. Her professional and personal relationships become impaired as she subconsciously begins to project Tony’s actions and motivations onto friendly men in her life. It takes an infuriating interview with an unlikely acquaintance—controversial filmmaker Les Kennkat (Tom Kephart)—to enable Theresa to eventually distinguish between the aggressive threats of Tony and the offensive and insulting, yet non-threatening, attitudes of other men.
Theresa’s friends and coworkers attempt to help in different ways. Howard offers practical assistance, but doesn’t quite understand the emotional component of Theresa’s situation. Mercer’s idea involves writing an article exploring the cultural and societal relationships between men and women, which Theresa views as a personal invasion of her situation. Young research assistant Harriet (Hannah Winkler) recommends shopping, salon visits and personal treats to take Theresa’s mind off of her problem. Theresa’s ultimate solution is the most drastic, and indeed undesirable, but seems to be the only effective course of action.
Boy Gets Girl delivers both thought provoking drama and creep factor. In fact, there are so many layers on the takeaway of this show that a review of this length is inadequate to address them all. There are disturbing scenes demonstrating what Tony will do in his fixation with Theresa. There are uncomfortable admissions by several characters of both real and imagined guilt. Even the comic relief found in scenes with filmmaker Kennkat and assistant Harriet are designed to reveal some of the inherent weaknesses of human behavior. Theresa’s situation leads to provocative conversations as the characters try—unsuccessfully—to clearly identify the lines between culturally acceptable, inappropriate and illegal behavior, and the clash between historical norms and modern ideas. For example, Kennkat tells Theresa that being fearless is not much different from being shameless, which is why he has enjoyed professional success making films with the same ridiculous theme. However, in Tony’s case, being fearless and shameless leads to his aggressive, immoral and criminal behavior.
Leah Gray’s very natural dialogue cadence and occasional laughter make her performance as Theresa seem rather effortless, and give us a main character that is genuine and relevant. Her occasional outbursts of anger and frustration are uncontrived, and are emotionally effective enough to make one wish there was a bit more of it, which is warranted by the story. Jonathon’s Slease’s portrayal is jarring in its range from the humorously awkward and initially sympathetic blind date Tony, to the unhinged rage and truly creepy behavior of stalker Tony.
Boy Gets Girl contains adult language and situations that should limit its audience to adults only. However, the exploration of human nature and reactions to fear and aggression are worth the watch. It is playing at The Citadel Stage in Port Huron through November 18, 2018.