Dallas — They thought it might work and it did. It is a smart decision by L.I.P. Service, Proper Hijinx Productions, and Resolute Theatre Project to collaborate on producing a play. Rebecca Gilman’s Boy Gets Girl (2000) directed by Jason Leyva, is now onstage at Amy’s Studio of Performing Arts.
Gilman writes about intimate contemporary situations and themes that question our morality, which fits in with Project Hijinx’s preference for pieces with relatability. Producing the play alone was not feasible for the company, however.
Life as a small theatre company is particularly precarious in Dallas, which makes the idea of collaboration as much of a necessity as it is a creative enterprise. Amy and Steve Cave have the performance space in their dance studio. Their stated mission also revolves around human relationships. Jason Leyva (L.I.P. Service) enjoys the collaborative process though his company’s programming is usually more biting. The result is a good production of a suspenseful story about the damage that can be caused through the pursuit of a relationship.
In Gilman’s story, Theresa (Stefany Cambra) lives and works in New York City as a reporter. She is an intellectual with what her manager Howard (John Daniel Pszyk) describes as a preference for dead literary figures, in particular William Dean Howells. He nudges Theresa to broaden her scope and assigns her an interview with filmmaker Les Kennkat (Van Quattro). There is gentle office competition with Mercer (Parker Fitzgerald). Supporting Theresa, Howard and Mercer in the office is their new secretary, Harriet (Emily Burgardt).
Theresa has avoided relationships for a year or so. Her friend Linda (whom the audience never sees) sets her up with Tony (Justin Duncan), who we meet on their blind date. From that encounter Theresa has little interest in moving forward with him, seeing no future for them. Tony leaves the date with a different impression and pursues her, obsessively. The tension that results from this conflict leads eventually to the intervention of Detective Beck (Dayna Fries). As the plot unfolds it becomes clearer that the play’s title might refer to something more insidious than the traditional romantic cat-and-mouse chase.
There is an awkwardness to Theresa that comes from feeling alone, personally and in the workplace. Cambra effectively paces the character’s sense of control within her spaces. Her read of the successful female professional is relaxed and modern yet complicated. Duncan and Cambra are sufficiently awkward together. Duncan does not actually have a lot of facetime onstage to drop the creepy Tony crumbs. The menacing nature of that character comes through audio and through Theresa’s visible reactions to him. Tony does not “look freaky” and in the words of Harriet “he seems sooo nice.” Duncan does not overplay it.
Providing relief from the discomfort in the main storyline between Tony and Theresa are the interactions between Theresa and Kennkat, the man she tries to loathe. Their scenes are wonderful. Van Quattro’s comic timing is impeccable. He makes the peeling back of his character’s layers look easy.
Gilman gives characters Howard and Mercer rich dialogue, which Pszyk and Fitzgerald do not squander. Fitzgerald unpacks Mercer, displaying a broad range of emotional responses across the story. Poor Harriet. Burgardt presents her honestly, in a way that is comically endearing and frustrating at the same time.
Partnering with the actors in making this play work is Daniel Bergeron’s sound design. It is an unseen major character in the story. Joshua Hahlen’s media provides the NYC context.
Boy Gets Girl is not a love story. It is a tale of survival and perseverance, of feminine strength and will.