Interior Lives, Not Happy Endings
"Boy" by Julia Jordan, directed by Joe Calarco.
Primary Stages 45th Street Theatre, 354 West 54th St.
Tues.-Sat. 8:00 pm; Sat. 2:00 pm; Sun. 3:00 pm. Please note that 8:00 pm performances on Wed., May 26 and Wed., June 2 will be replaced by 11:00 pm student performances. Specially priced student tickets available at the box office with valid student ID. For further information, please visit www.primarystages.com $48. Closes June 27.
Ticket Central: (212) 279-4200 or online at www.ticketcentral.com
Actor T.R. Knight vividly creates the main character's interior life in playwright Julia Jordan's complexly structured play "Boy," now at Primary Stages 45th Street Theatre though June 27.
His sullen, half-swollen shut eyes, unkempt hair, haggard demeanor, awkward limp and careless, baggy attire are the outward measures of a traumatized teen reliving the memories of his listless, pothead past.
Playwright Jordan keeps her audience in suspense as to the dark details of the Boy's past and to the ways in which his troubled mind connects with the equally disturbing details of a troubled family in Minnesota.
A secondary youth, Mick (played with frantic desperation by Kelly AuCoin) begins the play by entering the apartment window of his ex-girlfriend, Sara (Mirian Shor). Mick is an underachiever whom we learn in a later scene has failed to get his Ph. D in English. Three years ago, he left home to pursue an acting career. Now in his 30s, he has quit acting and returned home as an unsuccessful actor, searching to renew his relationship with Sara and to find new meaning in his life.
Sara, a former pre-med student, is now working as a research assistant at a hospital. Her knowledge of amunculous terra tuma, an interior tumor in the shape of a human, has given her a keen awareness of the possibilities that lie within people: "There are all these versions of people inside them."
The Boy reveals a darker understanding of human potential by tapping into the dead-end plight of his therapist's life. Terry, the therapist, ably portrayed by Robert Hogan as a caring doctor, suffers from his own potential for despair.
Mick's mother Maureen (played with psychological depth by Caitlin O'Connell) recognizes the dormant creativity in her son Mick and in her student the Boy, but she still must contend with her own sense of an unfulfilled life.
All these forces are brought to bear on one another in a few highly charged scenes leading up to the play's forced happy ending.
Playwright Jordan does a wonderful job keeping her audience's attention as she gradually unravels the interconnections between her characters. Like them, she adeptly shuffles time so there is no chronological order, no beginning, middle and end to the story.
The first scene of the play actually occurs chronologically after the penultimate scene of the play. The final scene of the play is a continuation of the penultimate scene in Act One. The last scene of Act One establishes ties to the highly charged penultimate scene of Act Two.
While Jordan does achieve structural balance in the play, she ultimately undercuts the full dramatic effect of the revelations about these characters' lives by creating an anti-climactic happy ending for Mick and Sara.
The Boy, who doesn't believe anyone "can buy a happy ending to a story," is really the supreme storyteller.
Suspense and our resulting interest in the interior lives of these characters, not happy endings, are what makes "Boy" so captivating, riveting and dramatic. [Hicks]
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