Wittenberg’s theater and dance department delivered a chilling performance this past weekend with the play Boy Gets Girl, directed by Patrick Kilby Reynolds.
Set in New York City, the play follows the life of a woman named Theresa (Audrey Zielenbach) who is set up by a friend for a blind date with a man named Tony (Dylan George). At the end of the date, Theresa ultimately decides that she doesn’t want to continue to see Tony, but he has other ideas. The rest of the play shows Theresa’s life rapidly falling apart as Tony stalks her and invades every aspect of her life, and by the end Theresa has lost her identity, humanity, and everything she knew and has to leave the city.
Before the show even started, the tone was set by the eerie lighting and a single chair far upstage. The rest of the set design followed a similar suit, being minimal and unobtrusive.
“For this play, it had a cinematic structure,” said Reynolds. “It was either have the actor constantly moving, or be able to have the set move around the actor.”
The set also had a meaning behind it; as Theresa’s life fragmented, the stage also fragmented and shifted around. The lighting design was also minimal, but effective, to create a tense and dramatic mood for each scene. There was a slight slip up with the projector during a scene, but the cast never broke character and kept the mishap from being distracting.
As the play opens, Zielenbach portrays a seemingly unlikable lead as an aloof journalist who struggles with relationships. She is distant and dedicated to her work, while George plays an over eager yet likable and awkward young man. They go through a believable and awkward blind date, and the audience is left feeling sympathetic to George.
In her workspace Zielenbach remains distant, and her coworkers Howard (Alex Behr), Mercer (Adam Barstow), and Harriet (Jillian Stout) all bring likable and vibrant characters to the stage. The office banter was witty and fun, causing laughter frequently from the audience. A few extra beats could have been used with the particularly funny one-liners, but it did not take away from the enjoyment.
Zielenbach is further tested when she is assigned to interview Les (Max Joseph), a film maker and “breast aficionado” whose misogynistic comments rile up Zielenbach and also shed light on the unsettling normality of that type of behavior towards women. Each scene Joseph was in evoked laughs from the audience, and his charming character and discovery that he’s not a bad person saves him from being unsavory.
While all of this is going on in the leading lady’s life, George is constantly there, even though he does not appear on stage often. The likability of George reverses as the play progresses, and George transforms into a sinister predator while Zielenbach is transformed into a victim who finds herself helpless to the situation at hand. Even when police and coworkers get involved, there is not much to be done, and the tension builds as George’s hunt continues.
During set changes, George made very deliberate interactions with Zielenbach, sending chills down the spine for audience members. The tension in the room built more and more with each scene, culminating in an unsettling ending. Zielenbach was surrounded by all the characters, who are all repeating the same few phrases in regards to her moving and her name changing, all while George intensely stares. Zielenbach pushes past George and delivers her final line as she walks off stage and then it goes to black.
The play had a very strong message and reflected the issues that women face, and how situations like the play presented can get out of hand with no solution.
“Part of it is the generational divide, not growing up with all this technology,” said Reynolds. “But it makes me as a question for our generation: what happens when I’ve laid my life bare to the winds of the world and then they blow hard?”
It was important to the department to put on a show that had the voices of contemporary women, and was a factor in choosing this play. Its rating prevented it being open to members of all ages, but the theater was mostly full each performance, and the audience was quick to congratulate the cast members and director after it was over.