The Diversionary Theatre’s production of Boys and Girls features honest conversations that will resonate with everyone who has been in a dysfunctional relationship. The “dramedy” may focus on gay characters, but the situations they find themselves in will hit close to home for straight audiences as well.
Reed (Anthony Methvin) is dissatisfied with his existence; one reason being his unresolved feelings for his ex-boyfriend, Jason (Andrew Oswald). Unfortunately Jason has a drinking problem, which was the primary cause of their breakup.
While muddling through, Reed spends a lot of time with his close lesbian friend, Bev (Chrissy Burns). She is raising a child with her partner, the bossy and stern, Shelly (Faeren Adams). Both of them request his assistance in parenting their young son, something that Reed is not one hundred percent behind.
Shana Wride directs the play with many sequences that are fast paced, but do not feel rushed. By staging the numerous exchanges in such a small space, it is as though theatergoers are eavesdropping on real life people. It is hard not to be impressed by dreamlike scene changes, where Wride with the help of lighting designer Luke Olson, has one scene ending and another simultaneously beginning.
Tom Donaghy’s dialogue is often stylized, but the subjects he brings up regarding parenthood, addiction and depression are unfeigned. His incorporation of these themes, makes Boys & Girls feel bigger in scope as the evening unfolds.
Donaghy uses a lot of humor mostly consisting of cleverly random one-liners. Sometimes the laughs can be too intentionally awkward, including a bizarre moment when Jason jokingly celebrates his father’s death. As events progress, this becomes less of an issue and the comic elements become funnier throughout the night.
The four actors onstage sincerely depict contradictory human behavior. Quite often, Methvin convincingly switches between being a snarky smart-aleck to a bighearted soul. This is only Methvin’s second performance at the Diversionary after playing a supporting role in Harmony Kansas, and here he shows San Diegans that he can be a captivating leading man.
Oswald portrays the complex Jason as a sensitive guy on the outside, but one who is hiding some disturbing inner demons. His upbeat personality makes Jason worth rooting for, despite his self-destructive behavior.
Burns plays Bev as an extroverted and uninhibited friend who likes to party and have a good time. The actress is frequently hilarious, even when she insults the people closest to her.
Though few might have empathy for the stone-faced Shelly; she makes it clear that the primary motivation for her seriousness comes from the desire to maintain an intact family. A highlight comes when watching Shelly privately handle personal tragedy. While Adams is perfectly cast, it should be noted that she has only played unsympathetic roles at the Diversionary. Perhaps, she will get the opportunity to depict more likeable women in the future, so that she doesn’t become typecast and is able to display a full range of emotions.
Both genders can find a lot to take away from Boys & Girls, but be aware that it is a misleading title. A more appropriate name would have been Reed, because the majority of the plot focuses on him and his love for Jason and Bev.
Boys & Girls might not always be comfortable viewing, yet there is a lot of comfort and satisfaction watching Reed navigate through life. The low-key and emotional epilogue may leave audience members thinking about their close connections with others, and who actually constitutes their family.