By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; Directed by DeLisa M. White
Produced by Retro Productions
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 12.12.15
Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 12.2.15
Rebecca Gray Davis, Heather E. Cunningham, C.K. Allen, Ryan Pater, Stephan Amenta, and Moira Stone in Good Boys and True.
BOTTOM LINE: A mother contemplates how well she knows her high school son after seeing a figure that might be his on a scandalous sex tape. This revival fits into important social discussions that are relevant today.
Rape Culture is a problem that does not just occur in the past. As Heather Cunningham, Retro Productions' Artistic Director states in the program, “Yes, this play takes place in 1988, but this is still happening in schools and colleges and beyond—everywhere. It is still happening.” Good Boys and True is a play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa that, in this day and age, is extremely relevant. With books like Jessica Knoll's The Luckiest Girl Alive and recent viral videos that expose catcalling, it is clear that the mentality of “boys will be boys” is warped and inappropriate.
Brandon Hardy (Ryan Pater) has the build of a Greek god. He is captain of the varsity football team and a starter for the basketball team at St. Joseph's Preparatory School for Boys. It seems like he has a lot going for him. Friends galore, Ivy league school acceptances, a girlfriend, etc. The list goes on. This privileged boy has everyone on his side until Coach Russell Shea (C.K. Allen) brings Elizabeth Hardy (Heather E. Cunningham), Brandon's mom and Coach Russ's long time friend, into his office for a serious discussion. A sex tape is making its way around; not only the upperclassmen, but freshmen have seen it, and now Russ and Mrs. Hardy have too. Could it be Brandon on the tape? It is difficult to tell, especially when most of the boys have a similar build and no one knows who the female on the film is. Do the participants know they were filmed? Was it a consensual encounter? How did it get out? Even Mrs. Hardy's sister Maddy Emerson (Moira Stone), who teaches at a nearby public school, has students in her class who have seen the vulgar tape.
Not only is the VHS making its rounds, but this story brings into question how parents and kids grow up. The lifestyle of these kids changes based on income and environment. Our mentalities are affected by our surroundings. There may not be one best way to handle a difficult situation, but sweeping it under the rug or just accepting it as a part of the culture, like they do at the boy's prep school, is unacceptable. People have to be held responsible for their actions. Thrown into the mix is also Brandon's relationship with another guy at school, Justin Simmons (Stephan Amenta), who is called many nasty names, one of which is “cocksucker.” Indeed, there are many such gut-wrenching, in-your-face moments in this drama. Amusing lines are written in as well, but they do not ease the tension.
Tackling the dilemma of multiple locations in a play is always a tough one for directors and set designers. DeLisa M. White and Jack and Rebecca Cunningham are on point with their creation for this revival. The mood evoked from each section of the scenery is that of its individual space, as well as being a part of the cohesive ambiance. One step up is the area designated as the Hardy's living room. Beyond that is the locker room, with the coach's office placed upstage center, at the heart of everything.
Utilizing works written in the past shows us how the topics in these revivals are ongoing problems that still need to be addressed. Though there is not much depth to the ideas written into Aguirre-Sacasa's script, White does well with bringing the important topics brought up in Good Boys and True to life.
(Good Boys and True plays at Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, through December 12, 2015. The show is two hours, with one intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $15-18 and are available at retroproductions.org.)
Good Boys and True is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by DeLisa M. White. It is produced by Retro Productions. Scenic Design is by Jack and Rebecca Cunningham. Lighting Design is by Asa Lipton. Sound Design is by DeLisa M. White. Costume Design is by Kathryn Squitieri. Properties Designer is Sara Slagle. Production Stage Manager is Elizabeth Ramsay.
The cast is Ryan Pater, Heather E. Cunningham, C.K. Allen, Moira Stone, Stephan Amenta, and Rebecca Gray Davis.