Written by playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and in The Celebration Company’s version, directed by Thom Schnarre, Good Boys and True opened this past week at The Station Theatre in Urbana. This play highlights the chaotic aftermath that a somewhat blurry video tape, depicting two teens engaging in rough sex, soon brings to a young Ivy League-bound man, his family, and the all-boys prep school he attends.
Set in the Washington, D.C. area during late ‘80s, privileged doctor and wife, Elizabeth Hardy (played by Chris Taber), lives the quintessential upper-middle-class American life. While her also-doctor husband is away on business, she is left to the task of parenting her stereotypically cocky and attractive football team captain son, Brandon Hardy (played by Maxwell Tomaszewski), who has recently found out he has been accepted to Dartmouth, the same Ivy League school attended by his father.
Brandon’s coach (Aaron Clark) finds the aforementioned sex tape and, believing that the boy on the screen may be Brandon, he shows the tape to Elizabeth, attempting to solve the problem quietly. Discreetly. Shocked by the notion that the boy performing the disdainful acts on the film is her intelligent, well-brought-up son, she immediately denies the claim. But after several realizations, she decides she may not know her son as well as she thought she did, and Brandon’s character is questioned to the core.
Aguirre-Sacasa utilizes the setting of this affluent ‘80s family to highlight the obvious animosity regarding homosexuality and to discuss the disparities between those born with privilege and power and those that have neither. The play examines friendship, homosexuality, power, the pressure it comes with, and the implications that occur because of it.
The revelations of the play have the potential to shock you throughout its run time, and Taber and Tomaszewski deliver such believable characters, I was almost convinced that these people in front of me were real and not actors trained to play those roles. That these people really were Elizabeth Hardy, a remorseful parent, struggling to come to terms with her revelations, and Brandon Hardy, a confident all-star athlete and top-notch student swept up in a disaster of his own making.
What I didn’t find myself enjoying was the amount of humor in the play—especially the first act. At first, I enjoyed the humor utilized in Brandon’s opening monologue, but as the play progressed, humor was used in lines that undercut the seriousness of the situation and made the play feel more like a sitcom than the drama it was intended to be.
Additionally, there was little character development. Brandon was still immature and unable to wholly grasp the effects of his actions throughout almost the entire play. Moreover the whole cast seemed to lack dimension, and merely exaggerated their own character flaws in each scene.
The Station Theatre, having a small area of space to work with, utilized it well, by creating three different sets, all cohesive in appearance, and standing them side-by-side. Displayed on the center of the stage is Brandon’s friend’s bedroom adorned with trophies and riddled with ‘80s memorabilia.
To the left of this set is a bookshelf decorated with family portraits, heirlooms, and garnished with a Rubik’s Cube as a more than subtle reminder that this play is definitely from the ‘80s. Also decorated with two chairs, this stands as the Hardy’s family room, while the last set transitions from the coach’s office to a food court. Throughout the sets, bras and underwear are strewn about the rooms, even featuring a pair of underwear brazenly placed onto the basketball.
From tight, ill-fitting athletic shorts to loud, hard-hitting ‘80s pop hits heard playing frequently throughout the play, no one will be left guessing in which decade this play is set. But the downside of these somewhat gaudy decorations is that any subtlety is indeed lost and so is the seriousness of some of the scenes. It’s hard to take a mother yelling at her son seriously when a women’s bra is displayed only a couple inches from her forehead.
But despite the almost too-humorous direction taken in the first act and the audacious set decorations, the play still remains a serious look at the effects of power and privilege, and homosexuality and friendship. One of the most delightful aspects of the play was the acting performed by a highly competent and talented local cast, which I hope to see performing in another play in the near future.
Good Boys and True continues through February 8th at 8 p.m. nightly at the Celebration Company’s Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway Ave. in Urbana. Tickets cost $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and $15 on Friday and Saturdays. For reservations visit the Station Theatre’s website or call (217) 384-4000.
Photos courtesy Sean O’Connor.