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The “Boy Gets Girl” play at Riverwalk Theatre’s Black Box is nothing like a Hallmark movie. It’s not the kind of story where the jerk sees his flaws and turns into a sweet ol’ chap and, by gosh and golly, he gets the gal after all.
Rebecca Gilman’s “Boy Gets Girl” starts off cheery enough. A blind date is full of awkward laughs and comedic displays. The encounter ends up being the catalyst for a series of intense and frightening events.
If “Boy Gets Girl” were a book, it would be a real page-turner. It is filled with dialogue that is cleverly amusing, unnerving, quick-witted and loaded with power. Like a good chapter, every scene ends with a final, profound line.
Its suspense and quick pace makes the two-and-a-half-hour-with-intermission show never dull. Director Brian Farnham deserves some credit for that. He also warrants praise for designing a multifaceted set with properties that are beyond most Black Box sets.
What also makes “Boy Gets Girl” gripping is that its fable about a man crossing the line in pursuit of a woman is all too real — and its cast is superbly lifelike in its portrayals. The combined realism is hard to watch at times, but I never considered turning away.
Janet Colson is Theresa Bedell (the “Girl”). All of Colson’s mannerisms, mood swings and emotional outbursts seem authentic. Every breath she takes fits her role. As the entire cast, Colson doesn’t just depict a character. She, and they, all portray genuine personalities.
Michael Banghart has just the right amount of charm and creepiness to be Tony Ross (the “Boy”). Ben Holzhausen is believable as Mercer Stevens — a co-worker who questions his own aggressiveness. As editor Howard Siegel, Greg Pratt is perfect as a mild-mannered boss.
Sabrina Dahlgren is marvelously ditzy as the young and naïve assistant Harriet. Michelle Booher-Purosky seems natural as a detective named Beck. Bob Purosky, offers a standout performance as filmmaker Les Kennkat.
Kennkat is modeled after sexploitation directors a’ la Russ Meyer. Kennkat’s crude honesty and frank humor is a sharp contrast with the mostly serious cast. Purosky represents an aging-but-now-hip icon that is both delightfully subdued and over-the-top at the same time. Like every character in “Boy Gets Girl,” he exposes ways men and women’s perceptions of sex and romance are different.
To really listen is a repeated message of the play. It has those onstage and ideally, the audience, examining their own relationship actions and expectations.
Sadly, since the occurrences of female assaults are commonplace, “Boy Gets Girl” is a realistic reminder of the problem and the trauma it creates. And the play won’t offer solace to those affected, either.
Anyone who might be triggered by such reminders should avoid it. Those brave enough to endure “Boy Gets Girl’s” horrors and very graphic language will be rewarded with a thriller with some laughs and lots of potent acting.
Just don’t even think about taking a first date to it.
“Boy Gets Girl”
Thursday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 25, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.
Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Dr., Lansing
$14 General Admission, $12 Senior/Student/Military
(517) 482-5700, riverwalktheatre.com