New York state of mind

The Adventures of Nervous-Boy (a penny dreadful)

By James Comtois
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Nosedive Productions
The Gene Frankel Underground
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adam Cooper

There is something for almost every New Yorker to relate to in The Adventures of Nervous-Boy, James Comtois’s surreal and skewering romp on big city life. Mac Rogers starred as the play’s intrepid narrator-protagonist who navigates his way through Gotham City as a young, artistic freelancer, surrounded by stressed-out people and living in quiet dread. As Nervous-Boy relates to the audience his insecurities and dissatisfactions, he encounters a plethora of wild characters whose unfulfilling relations with him only further twist his mind into a surreal distancing from reality and from his own inner being. As such, Nervous-Boy’s observations of himself and others become increasing unreliable to the point where he descends into a netherworld of madness, only to be reborn Twilight Zone-like into his old, alienated self, untouched by his psychotic catharsis.

The play is a psychic roller coaster ride of youthful experiences of the contemporary New Yorker. Effectively directed by Pete Boisvert, the action zings from city streets, to hip bars, office spaces, riverside retreats, dingy pool halls, even to off-off Broadway theater spaces. Through fast-paced vignettes, Nervous-Boy encounters a parade of characters, including chatty cell-phone users, trendy liberal hypocrites, drug users and abusers, artist wannabes, corporate hucksters, strippers, and would-be lovers, all with the common link of having the shallowest of relationships with Nervous-Boy. Death, both literally and figuratively, hovers imperviously around his personal and professional life until finally inundating his inner psychic existence. After failing to hook up romantically with his distant friend Emily (Rebecca Comtois), Nervous-Boy finds the greatest solace and connection with a subterranean, devil-like pot-smoking pal (Patrick Shearer) and a no-holds-barred kinky stripper (Tai Verley).

New Yorker audiences will recognize many such characters that will make them feel not comforted but patently aghast. But therein lies a weakness of the play. While colorfully presented and employing economical use of sound (Patrick Shearer) and lighting (Sarah Watson), there remained the niggling question of what was new or heightened about the play’s material. Weighing on the production was the unsettling sense of cliché. Why buy a ticket when many of the characters and situations can be experienced on New York streets for free? Even the phantasmagoric climax of the production was reminiscent of older treatments, such as in Robert Altman’s psychological horror film That Cold Day in the Park. Comtois successfully parodied much of what is lunacy in New York life, even off-off-Broadway productions like itself. The wild, deconstructionist approach to the material was both humorous and entertaining but left little in the way of characterization or concerns to empathize with or care about.

(Also featuring Anna Kull, Marc Landers, Ben Trawick-Smith, and Scot Lee Williams.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2006 Adam Cooper