By E.M. Fredric
PASADENA, CA (The Hollywood Times) July 01, 2019 – Good Boys – created 12 years ago by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa – made its current Pasadena Playhouse debut to a sold-out house that anxiously awaited this phenomenal drama to begin. Director Carolyn Cantor’s velvet touch has her actors move purposefully and believably through each scene without disturbing this stylish, relevant play with grit that dares to leave no stone unturned as the play reveals today’s (and yesterday’s) cultural and social clash on multiple tiers. It’ll leave you breathless in conversation long after the curtain falls.
Brandon Hardy (Ben Ahlers) is the typical brilliant, athletic and charming young man that makes St. Joseph’s Preparatory School proud. He is their perfect export – handsome, smart and a shining example of the perfect private school student – just like dad was. His parents are doctors and his mother (Betsy Brandt) steps in and intervenes – sorting through facts and fiction she comes across as her Ivy-League bound senior becomes the center of a sex scandal that threatens to destroy his future and rips the lid off of family secrets held since long before his birth.
Brandon and Justin Simmons (Dylan Arnold) have compelling, heartfelt scenes that quickly turn toxic – yet, these two actors have a chemistry and emotional range – because the writing is that real – that keeps you locked in as each new piece of information is brought to light. Even as the sexual orientation of Brandy is agreed upon, he quickly changes and will go to any length to keep up an image. There is no shame in fame at any cost – just in getting caught with or without a patsy. There is more than one in Good Boys tapestry of a mindset that returns to remind us that history does, always has and will repeat itself.
We get to observe and feel these people in the most horrific moments of their lives. It’s not pretty but its food for thought and constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. I questioned how long does it take to potty train a young dog yet here we go again having our noses stuck in the same messes – maybe we’re not unlike Pavlov’s dogs.
The scenic design (Dane Laffrey), costume design (Sara Ryung Clement), lighting design (Elizabeth Harper), sound design (Daniel Gower), and stage management (Jennifer Slattery) flow effortlessly from school, to house to cafeteria or locker-room. It’s a beautifully designed set that works with the actors and gives them the space to be free and explore the incredible dialogue they’ve been gifted to memorize.
Coach Russell Shea (James Carpinello) has the biggest change in all the characters and Carpinello embodies the coach with the ease and comfort of an cashmere coat. His scenes with Elizabeth Hardy mines for deeper discussion on what happens when our elite boys are considered masters of the universe and the repercussions for standing aside and sweeping toxic actions under-the-rug.
Tamilla Woodward (Toks Olagundoye) as Elizabeth’s good teacher friend from another school shines in every scene she’s in. Her warmth, comedy and convictions ring true.
Cheryl Moody (Brett Cooper) brings out so much of why young girls/women get stuck in trying to get ahead and gives a perspective that doesn’t come across as cheap or can be discounted. A delight to watch.
As the playwright says, “The dramatic situations in this play are uncannily similar to incidents and issues that we’re still grappling with in this country – viscerally – even more so than when I first wrote Good Boys. In revisiting the play, I further explored themes like privilege, masculinity, and personal responsibility, as Brandon and Elizabeth find themselves on trial by their community and each other. Good Boys is a sort of ‘moral thriller,’ a game of cat and mouse between a mother and her son, with twists and turns that will keep you guessing about the truth right up to the end.’”
When do we stop living our lies and perpetuating our myths?
Not much controversy isn’t touched upon – college admissions, mothers and sons, wives and husbands, best friends… primarily, the privilege of the elite. So many famous names come to mind and what they’ve gotten away with for so long – if there’s just one person to take the fall – life can go on… as usual.
Go see this play, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride spiraling within a broadly netted current/past context and it’s thrilling to watch.
Good Boys runs Jun 26 – Jul 21, 2019
The Pasadena Playhouse is located at: 39 S. El Molino Ave. Pasadena, CA 91101
Tickets Pasadena Playhouse start at $25 book early and save — Use promo code BOYS