NY Theater Review by JK Clarke
The program for Dylan Coburn Gray’s Boys and Girls (playing through September 28 at 59E59 as part of the 1st Irish 2014 theater festival) comes with a glossary of terms, mainly to help American audiences understand Dublin-specific Irish expressions. It’s useful to read the sheet before the play, because we’d likely have no idea that “Alchemy” is a horrible, sleazy, infamous nightclub, or that “getting the shift” refers to making out. Unfortunately, there is no guide to help erase the cultural rift that makes Boys and Girls both irrelevant and uninteresting to an American audience that is neither of the generation or culture that would find itself in a hip hop or techno nightclub. And there’s nothing particularly compelling about the characters that might draw one in to that subculture, either.
Boys and Girls is four one-person shows crammed into a one-hour production. Ronan Carey, Seán Doyle, Maeve O’Mahony and Claire O’Reilly play four nameless, early-20 somethings who go out nightclubbing—replete with excessive drinking, drug taking (ecstasy, a common, euphoria-inducing club drug), dancing and, finally, hooking up. They tell their story in individual rhyming monologues. Unfortunately, the rhyme scheme sounds like poorly constructed, uninspired, vulgar (yet somehow sterile) rap lyrics with a cadence reminiscent of Dr. Seuss; and it doesn’t match the spirit of their stories: ”Find my humour, distasteful, crass, dated? I find it wasteful when your mouth moves and my penis remains unfellated.” Cringe.
It’s a pity the writing and the storyline aren’t more accessible. The actors are all quite good and handle the material with aplomb and good timing. They only fail to make an impression or get the expected laughs because it’s weak and not relatable to an American audience. It’s not that youth culture isn’t worth examining – case in point, Smoke, now playing at The Flea does so admirably-https://www.theaterpizzazz.com/whisps-whips-smoke – but these lads and ladies are uninspired and uninspiring. Gray, who directs his own material, does so well enough: the four are seated on folding chairs and stand to speak individually for a period, and later break through with a more cadenced interspersing of monologue (never dialog) that is quite skillfully done. Some costuming choices are questionable (is she really wearing her pre-shredded, designer jeans up past her bellybutton like that?), but for the most part set and costuming is unassuming. If it weren’t for the bouncy speech cadence, this play might feel like testimonials at an AA meeting.
Though Boys and Girls was well received at Dublin Fringe, it’s hard to understand exactly why it was included in the 1st Irish 2014 festival. It doesn’t offer any useful views of Irish youth culture (except to suggest that the club kids in Dublin are just as insipid as the cast of the Jersey Shore), there are no characters we end up caring about, and we are not offered any real insights into the human condition. Yes, 20-year-olds go out to clubs, have too many drinks, make foolish sexual overtures and so on. That’s nothing new and it’s as banal as it ever was, if not more so. It’s a shame, really, because the four actors are very good. To see them in a substantive production would likely be quite a treat.
Boys and Girls. Part of 1st Irish 2014. Through September 28 at 59E59, 59 East 59th Street (at Madison Avenue). www.1stIrish.org
Photos: Carol Rosegg