In fact, I saw Boyfriends on Wednesday evening, midway though its successful run at the Fringe. It appears that the ghosts in the machine stole my review, and I’m now rewriting it on Monday, with the show having mellowed a few days in my head. As with scotch and men, I think time has improved my enjoyment of Boyfriends as well.
Boyfriends, written by Alexander Carson and Nicholas Martin, is an imagined backstory for the stars of the 1970 film Husbands. Not the characters, mind you – this is an imagined evening in the lives of the three stars when they’re much younger. I imagine that a theatregoer with some familiarity with any of those actors – Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk, and John Cassavetes – would have a richer experience of this play than I did. Without that, I was left to take it on its merits, which were somewhat uneven but in the end enough to make it worth seeing.
In this production, Ben and Peter are moving John into his new apartment. John invites Shirley, an escort, to the apartment and sets up a game in which they see which of them can most successfully woo her. Shirley, played by Katerina Georgieva, is marvelous in this role. She lets the audience see her managing the men – and the situation – just enough; it’s utterly right without falling over the fine line into parody. Johnathan Sousa was well cast as Peter, and brought an openness to the role that seemed perfectly true to the character. He’s the sensitive one; he falls for Shirley a little, and we get the sense that he could fall a little for anyone who was kind to him. It was well done.
I deeply wished that Nadeem Umar-Khitab, the actor who played Ben, came with a speed control of some kind, and director Benjamin Carson seems not to have found it either. Despite a lot of natural charisma, Umar-Khitab’s delivery ended up making nearly everything seem like an argument. I understood that the play was in some part about these friends who argue often, but I wanted some variation to the pace and volume.
We see less of Edward Charette then anyone else in his role as John, but he was solidly fine if also somewhat speedy. As it ended up, I felt a little tired by the fast loudness of large chunks of the work. That may account for my fondness for Georgieva and Sousa – they provided one of the few quiet, natural moments in the show.
For some reason, sound designer Jonah Greenbaum-Shinder made the choice to have the sound of rain running nonstop through the entire production, which I am forced to assume was a choice about movie-style realism. For sure, I am a less-is-more kind of guy when it comes to pre-recorded sound cues, but this was aurally numbing for me, and made it hard to hear the actors. I wouldn’t have done it. That said, I still think the piece is certainly worth seeing – especially for fans of the actors who have become characters of this film.
Boyfriends played at Factory Studio Theatre as part of the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival.