Dating in the big city is tough. There are millions of people, many of them interesting, well educated, good looking. How does a single girl who works long hours and hasn’t dated since her relationship ended 18 months ago find love again?
If you’re Theresa Bedell (Kate Dulcich) you agree to be set up on a blind date with Tony (David Hudson). After all, nothing is more natural than the fix-up, right? And that’s how Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman begins. Two unattached people agreeing to meet on the recommendation of a mutual friend who actually isn’t a close friend of either. Still, why not?
Theresa is like any other cultured, smart woman who’s been single in the city for a while. A savvy contributor for The World Magazine (think along the lines of The New Yorker or Vanity Fair) she knows her boundaries and she knows her type. So, while she agrees to meet Tony for a drink she’s not quick to jump into anything. It’s obvious that their first meeting doesn’t produce any fireworks. Conversation is of the 20-questions variety and more differences bubble up between them than similarities. They have different backgrounds, like different things, have different senses of humor. A swing and a miss, an awkward pause … next topic, repeat. Still, he’s nice enough – eager to please – and when he quickly invites her out to dinner for that weekend Theresa (against her better judgement) says yes though there’s more than a hint of a shrug conveyed in her body language.
Fast forward to the end of date number two; dinner’s been eaten, plates have been cleared, and Theresa is ready to put this thing out of its misery. There’s noting wrong with Tony … at first. And he’s certainly trying hard to win her over. However it’s his desperate need to view them as a couple and plan a relationship for them that has alarm bells going off in Theresa’s head. When she does the right thing and cuts Tony loose before he gets the wrong idea he reacts badly, his wounded pride tinged with a flash of anger which makes Theresa glad she got out of there fast. Bullet dodged. Normally, this is where the awkward fix-up scenario ends, right?
Except this time it doesn’t.
In a slow boil Tony’s fascination moves from a casual, unannounced drop-in at her job (maybe if she just got to know him … maybe if they could just be friends …) to flowers (which Theresa refuses to accept) to voice mails of apology which turn angry and then violent and threatening.
For a while Theresa is alone in all of this. Buttoned up at work, one of the boys, not one to suffer fools it’s difficult when she has to take people into her confidence. She certainly isn’t making a friend of her new, ditsy but well meaning assistant Harriet (Talisa Friedman) who is the exact opposite of her in every way. Eventually she confides in her two male co-workers: her editor Howard (Gregory Ryan) and fellow writer Mercer (William Peden). While, to her face, they are sympathetic, alone they wonder if perhaps this is just a case of a nice guy being persistent and Theresa over-reacting. After all, in every movie the persistent guy gets the girl in the end, right? Mercer even goes so far as to lay out a scenario of a possible story that could run in the magazine where he examines stalker behavior which resulted in a happy ending. The two men think this is a fantastic idea. It’s not until Mercer is exposed to one of the notes Theresa receives and hears the gruesome details which – at this point – have escalated to brutal sexual and violent filth that he begins to consider that maybe using a co-worker’s personal hell for story fodder isn’t such a good idea.
As things escalate the men (finally) begin to understand the harm Tony is causing Theresa — especially when detective Madeleine Beck (Kellie Johnson) is called in and begins to outline Theresa’s options. Besides taking new routes home from work, changing her phone number and saving all emails, voice mails, notes and letters Theresa is advised to consider moving out of state and changing her name. ”But I’m a writer! I write under this name!” Theresa says indignantly, even as she knows that slowly she’s being stripped of her identity.
An identity she’s working hard to maintain. Her work day consists of pursuing stories and when her boss (rather thoughtlessly) assigns her to a Russ Meyer type filmmaker named Les Kennkat (Robert W. Smith) who is unabashedly obsessed with women, particularly their breasts, his cavalier misogyny rubs Theresa the wrong way – especially right now.
Watching a self-possessed, strongly anchored woman lose total control of her wits, her life, her ties and ultimately her world is beyond chilling. Boy Gets Girl does for blind dating what Fatal Attraction did for extra-marital affairs. The real story here is how easily this all happened to Theresa despite the fact that she dated defensively and nipped things in the bud as soon as she saw an opportunity to get out. Truth is, Theresa wasn’t at fault and should not be blamed- no more than a rape victim should be blamed for wearing a certain outfit. No woman is asking for this.
Director Michael Menger does an excellent job at unfolding this story, while the build-up is slow the pacing and action is not. And in a play with numerous set changes Menger manages to make use of them; he works with sound designer Shaun Gunning to give a city-hustle-and-bustle feel to the frenzied movement so rather than feel like we’re watching the props being switched around we get more of a feeling of just watching the city move and meld. One particularly inspired scene change involves Tony – who hasn’t been seen for a while during the play -rifling through Theresa’s apartment. While this is all done in darkness before the scene begins David Hudson still uses all the maniacal rage of his character to destroy the room and bring it to ruin. It’s a subtle but brilliant choice.
Boy Gets Girl is both a solid ensemble piece as well as a star turn. Ultimately what makes Boy Gets Girl so compelling is Kate Dulcich’s complete understanding of Theresa’s many facets. Guarded, jaded, strong, vulnerable, articulate, frazzled … all these emotions come tumbling out precisely as they are meant to and are given even weight. Yet without each supporting character this wouldn’t be half as interesting; each of the other characters coax out a note which ultimately makes this a richer melody. Whether Theresa is painstakingly explaining rules (both personal and professional) to the naive and too-sweet-for-her-own-good Harriet or trying to fight 70 years of male chauvinism in the form of Les Kennkat it all works to serve the main theme.
Boy Gets Girl is a chilling tale of what can happen when taking a chance on the wrong person costs you everything. In a society where so little is private there are real monsters lurking, ready to destroy us. Worse, sometimes that monster has a nice face, a good job, and a bouquet of roses for you. Be warned.
~~~BOY GETS GIRL Written by Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Michael Menger Thursdays at 8 p.m. Fridays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 7 p.m. . Tickets are $18 Click Here or call 866-811-4111 Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater ½ hour prior to performance .
Access Theatre 380 Broadway @ White Street. (2 blocks South of Canal) on the 4th Floor