OK. Perhaps it wasn't the ideal show to see on Valentine's Day. The tale of a relationship plagued by past loves, self-doubt, and a general inability to communicate is not exactly the stuff of hearts and roses. Dennis Moritz's Just The Boys is, however, a provocative, challenging look at modern-day relationships as Jerry and Evelyn--a car mechanic and an artist--attempt to forge some kind of connection but find themselves tormented by the presence (both real and imagined) of his ex-girlfriends, whom Evelyn feels she can never live up to. Moritz and director Michael Leland succeed in capturing poignant and funny aspects of each of these women through a series of short but telling episodes.
Linda (Robin Poley) offers him $500 to father her a child; Cathy (Shelita Birchett) alternates between begging for his return and holding a gun to his head proclaiming that she is "black woman" and refusing to be "your Halle Berry, Your Naomi Cambell, your Robin Givens"; and Jody (Marianne Ryan) seeks to draw him back through voodoo. As Jerry and Evelyn, Peter Patrikios and Janice Hughes were subtly powerful, capturing the loneliness and fear at the heart of their desperate attempts to form a bond.
Yet on one level, the play seems to be trying to be less about relationships than about the way men and women communicate. Moritz opens the play with a monologue in which Dave, a fellow mechanic, states: "Men don't talk about anything. Objects. mechanisms. theories. cryptic. difficult for me. cryptic." This introduction of sorts ends with the line: "this is a little bit about how men don't say anything." Thus in what seems a deliberate attempt to counter this notion, Moritz introduces a sort of confessional monologue form for his male characters, one that is usually associated with female ones. Thus Dave (Sean Miller) states, "I stopped crying for good in the seventh grade" and proceeds to narrate a "feelings"-oriented confession that is striking in the mouth of a man. It is also, however, a slightly leaden, psychological dimension in an otherwise sparse, abstract play.
Moritz is much more successful with a monologue he gives to Walt (Amani Gethers), which retains the poetic sparseness and rhythms of the rest of the play: "Did you see those black guys in here the other day? dancin, dancin, dancin to the corner, had the white mouse in their sights, dancin' and dancin' towards his place..." A little earlier Walt says "I have no interest in talkin' about what I do or how I do." Thank Heavens. It would, indeed, have been a shame if his evocative poetry had been replaced by a tedious confessional monologue. Moritz is at his strongest when he resists the urge to over-psychologize and allows the rhythms and images of his poems, of his characters, of his words, to take over and speak for themselves.
Copyright 1996 Sarah Stevenson
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