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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
BOYS LIFE
at Second Stage Theatre

GROWING PAINS
By STUART MILLER

  Jason Biggs, Rhys Coiro, and Peter Scanavino/PH: Joan Marcus

The first two scenes of the revival of Howard Korder's1988 hit Boy's Life (at Second Stage Theatre) will make you cringe. The actors, especially Michelle Federer and Peter Scanavino , director Michael Greif , and the playwright are all trying too hard-overwrought performers spouting cutesy dialogue while leaping from one mark to another on stage.

But just when you're searching for the nearest exit something clicks. It's not just that the third scene features the two strongest actors, Rhys Corio (Entourage) and Stephanie March (Law & Order: SVU) no, the whole cast settles down and (or perhaps because) the direction and writing seems calmer and more natural. (Aiding the cause is Mark Wendland's dynamic set built in pre-fab housing and a rocking '80s soundtrack ranging from Talking Heads to Motley Crue.)

The rest is often a sharp, funny look at the psyche of the young modern man, with Corio as Jack, the savage instigator who provokes to cover over the hollowness within flanked by the eager, needy Don (Scanvino) and the schlubby and neurotic Phil (American Pie's Jason Biggs), who sums the angst up: "Everyone's worried about the world getting blown up or something, right, but... what if doesn't. What if it just goes on like this forever? What are we gonna do then?"

But while the play doesn't feel dated, neither does it retain the freshness, the sense of inspiration or the power to surprise, it may have had in 1988-not because it seems too Mamet-esque (it shares a sensibility but has refreshingly un-stylized dialogue) but because it is a subject that has since been covered all too often. (In that it resembles Second Stage's recent revival of Eric Bogosian's suburbia, which often felt flat for the same reason.) It's a good play, ultimately done well, but with so many contemporary playwrights tackling similar subject matter, it's hard to discern why this revival was needed now.

 


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