Toronto Fringe Festival presents Boys Don’t Cry at the Robert Gill Theatre. Award-winning young songwriter Mateo Lewis explores his complicated relationship with gender and romance in this semi-autobiographical musical coming-of-age story.
Boys Don’t Cry is a well structured, solid theatrical piece that examines the effects of toxic masculinity. The audience sees Young Jayden (Zach Stahmer) in a flashback scene. The scene quickly shifts to present day with an older teenage version of Jayden portrayed by Mateo Lewis. Throughout the show, we transition through time utilizing Stahmer and Lewis as indicators of whether we are in the past or present time. In both the past and the present, Jayden’s main objective is to establish his self-identity, which is contrary to his father’s wishes.
The family, with Carson Betz as older brother Brock and Sara McMillan-Stahmer as the mother Carol, is dysfunctional due to the toxic masculinity established by their deceased father and the pressures of society. To me, although the seemingly rocky relationship between Jayden and his father set the tone for this piece, it was unclear to me how this disconnect between Jayden and his father began.
Jayden then meets Rosanne (Aveleigh Keller), who gives him new perspective. Rather than pursue the traditionally masculine sport of soccer, Jayden instead embraces his poetic voice through writing. As Jayden embraces his sensitive side, I wondered if he would ever have done so without the support from Rosanne.
Mateo Lewis plays a convincing Jayden, and his vocal strength is undeniable. Aveleigh Keller delights the audience with her beautiful high belts. Sarah McMillan-Stahmer’s performance is honest and emotional. Christoper Wilson demonstrates a clear vision in his direction as he ensures that his entire cast utilizes the stage to its full capacity. The stage is transformed from Jayden’s house or to Rosanne’s house easily with a few small adjustments to the set pieces.
At certain points of the story, Jayden is criticized for being sensitive. As an insult, other characters use derogatory words to imply that he is gay. It was unsettling that the script implied that being gay is a negative thing. Gay slurs were integrated into the script without any narrative counter argument. I felt that there was a missed opportunity for a deeper exploration of the implications of male identity with regard to sensitivity, femininity, and sexual orientation.
Boys Don’t Cry teaches us that there is strength in sensitivity. Though I found it difficult to connect to it personally, it is no doubt a strong piece of musical theatre. Be sure to catch Boys Don’t Cry at the Fringe.
- BOYS DON’T CRY plays at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through usage of a painfully slow elevator. We recommend making sure you arrive a few minutes early.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Friday July 5th, 5:45 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 4:30 pm
- Monday July 8th, 2:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 9:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 1:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 5:45 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 8:00 pm
Poster image provided by the company