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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
GOOD BOYS AND TRUE
at Second Stage Theatre

WHO DONE IT?
By BILL STEVENSON

  Brian J. Smith and J. Smith-Cameron/PH:Sara Krulwich

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's new play, directed by Scott Ellis, involves a sex scandal at a private school in the late 1980s. It sounds like juicy material, and Second Stage's production has a strong cast that includes J. Smith Cameron. Strangely enough, though, Good Boys and True is a mostly dull drama.

The plot seems to be inspired by an embarrassing scandal at the tony boarding school Milton Academy a few years ago. Aguirre-Sacasa's play takes place at St. Joseph's, a fictional all-boys school in the Washington D.C. area. Brandon (Brian J. Smith) is the handsome, high-achieving captain of the football team who plans to attend Dartmouth in the fall. But his future is in jeopardy when a videotape surfaces that shows a boy who resembles Brandon having sex with a girl. Brandon tells his mother (J. Smith-Cameron) it isn't him, and she badly wants to believe him.

To his mother and everyone else, Brandon appears to be the perfect upper-middle-class golden boy. But he has a few secrets, including a surprisingly intimate friendship with his classmate Justin (Christopher Abbott). And his football coach (Lee Tergesen ) may not be entirely supportive of Brandon even though he attended St. Joseph's with Brandon's father.

Brandon's dad is away on business and never makes an appearance, which seems odd. We also never see any other students besides Brandon and Justin. The larger problem with the play is that it doesn't sustain one's interest despite the racy subject matter. Scene after scene revolves around whether Brandon is the boy who filmed himself having sex. Even when we learn the answer, the story doesn't develop in an involving way.

For a top student, Brandon is awfully clueless. Okay, but are you mad? he asks his mom when it's quite clear she's angry with him. In another scene, Brandon calls himself a goddamned demigod, which doesn't sound like something that even a cocky student would say. Other dialogue rings just as false, as when Brandon's aunt (Kellie Overbey) calls the boy on the tape a miscreant.

The chiseled, square-jawed Smith-who made his Broadway debut in Come Back Little Sheba-certainly looks the part and is generally convincing as an overprivileged young alpha male. Abbott is also believable as Justin, who endures homophobic slurs despite his friendship with Brandon. Smith-Cameron is somewhat miscast as a conservative suburban mom, but she does her best to add dramatic excitement to a less-than-stimulating play.

During one of the more dramatic but least convincing scenes, Justin lashes out at Brandon and ends his rant by quoting a Latin phrase. It seems unlikely, to the say the least, that he would show off his knowledge of Latin while fighting with his best friend. In such moments it's obviously the playwright we're hearing, not his characters. The pretentious, at times preposterous dialogue made me wonder what the Latin translation is for beating a dead horse.

 


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