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by Lucy Komisar

Photo from 'Boy Gets Girl'
Mary Beth Fisher discovers the dark side of the male ego in Rebecca Gilman's "Boy Gets Girl." Photo by Liz Lauren.
Contents: March 4, 2001:
"Boy Gets Girl"

"Boy Gets Girl"
by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Michael Maggio, supervised by Lynne Meadow
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in association with The Goodman Theatre
131 West 55 Street
Opened February 20, 2001
Closes April 8, 2001
Reviewed by Lucy Komisar February 23, 2001
NEW YORK - Rebecca Gilman's dialogue and sensibility are so uncannily on the mark, that sometimes you think you are watching a scene from your own life. No one draws a better picture of a sharp, acerbic New York career woman. She fights the boredom of a drink with a dullard by flashing ironic witticisms she knows he won't understand.

When he asks if she's been on lots of blind dates, she quips, "Nobody who actually knows me will go out with me." When she tries to let him down gently by saying she's not ready for a relationship, he accuses her of being "repressed." The nods of recognition in the audience could have set a breeze blowing.

But this is no easygoing reminiscence of obnoxious dates. It is a gripping feminist thriller about the objectification of women, which takes it from a co-worker's casual sexual musing to porno movies and finally murderous terrorization by a stalker. It turns Theresa (a warm, sensitive but crisp Mary Beth Fisher) from an assertive, self-confident professional to a frightened, quivering, angry heap. It's about how the sexual objectification of women destroys their personhood. The title, of course, is a double-edged pun, on one side alluding to the Hollywood-style romance fantasy, on the other to the dark reality of women as objects and targets.

It's easy to laugh at Tony (an effectively creepy Ian Lithgow), who doesn't know who Edith Wharton is and, when prompted with "The Age of Innocence," says, "Oh, with Wynona Ryder." She's an intellectual and he's a jerk. Yet, she sits there, putting up with him, and even accepts another date. Gilman knows that sometimes smart women do that. As Theresa comments, they are "women who think they're supposed to be nice." They often become "women who think they're supposed to tolerate shit."

The porno filmmaker Les Kennkat (Howard Witt) is pretty obnoxious, too, with his apartment decorated with posters advertising "Succubus Meets Incubus" and "Ga Ga Girls Galore." He is a "cult figure" fixated on breasts. He could be modeled on Russ Meyer, another "cult figure" who was invited to prestigious college campuses in the 70's, along with his movies featuring women attached to large breasts.

"Tony is not alone in how he sees women," Theresa says. "He's got a lot of company." Even the "normal" guys have some problems. When Mercer (David Adkins), her colleague at "The World Magazine" (culture, politics and art) notes that he's taken women's studies classes, the editor (Matt DeCaro) remarks, "Is that something you took to meet girls?"

The action occurs in designer Michael Philippi's utterly recognizable, attractive familiarity, from the sidewalk cafe to the magazine office to Theresa's brownstone apartment. Director Michael Maggio has filled that normal space with edge-of-the-seat tension and terror, so that when a doorbell rings, some people in the audience whisper, 'Don't open it!" (Maggio died in August, and Lynne Meadow supervised the production.)

There are also some eerily comic moments, especially built around Shayna Ferm, very funny as Harriet, the punk-chic secretary. She had been assistant accessories editor at "W" - belts and scarves -- but she explains, "I couldn't take the pressure."

Gilman has a facility with words, a feel for reality, and a sensitivity to women's lives that makes her play notable as well as entertaining.[Komisar]

Theater critic Lucy Komisar gives pre-show briefings and post-show discussions for theater parties to enrich playgoers' experiences. She'll also help find an appropriate show and make or advise on arrangements. Interested parties may telephone (212) 929-1610 for information.

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