Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Good Boys and True - by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
First produced by Steppenwolf in 2007, then in NYC at Second Stage Theater in 2008, Aguirre-Sacasa's play Good Boys and True is a play that works kindof like a funnel, or more precisely like a corkscrew sea shell (I'm sure there is a technical name for this) - you're going down a maze, it starts at a clear point and then opens further and further out implicating more and more in it's scope, but still keeping the main thing hidden in it's shell.
So. First Act, not broken into scenes, but rather just slipping from one place to another without a break - often using these shifts to nice effect to highlight how different characters are in different situations. We have Brandon, a clean-cut, football and basketball player giving a tour of his school, a private school outside of Washington DC. What a nice boy (we think). Then we have his mother (a doctor) and his coach meeting because coach found kids watching a video tape of a boy having sex with a girl, possibly forcing her, certainly she didn't know she was being filmed - the boy's face is not visible, but from the back - it could be Brandon. What a terrible boy (we think). Then we slip to the next scene between his mom and her sister (who teaches at a public school - on principle) and their discussion leaves us wondering - is he a nice boy? is he a terrible boy? Then he enters and mom confronts him. He says no way was it him And he got into Dartmouth on early decision. What a nice boy (we think again, and it's reassuring)
From here each scene builds further by the end of the first act we know the facts of the situation, but it is the truth of the situation that is dangled until the end. And in pursuit of that each scene brings in new questions often by revealing old secrets - the entitlement of the private school students, what students who are legacies are really inheriting - the violent stories of the past - the present, exalted positions of the perpetrators, the school culture and the wider privileged culture promoted by parents defending their children, pushing their children down a particularly narrow road. Tucked into scenes between Brandon and his best friend is the seed that holds the truth of this nasty situation.
In the second Act, we are introduced to the girl in question, lawyers and media are involved, and futures are at stake. The layers of bigger and bigger questions accumulate and widen the scope of the play's grasp. With the mother we follow the search for the truth and seek a moral stance - with Brandon we are further and further shut out as he shuts down, waiting for his father to come home, to understand and to make it all go away. The end is a little scene, breezy - a glimpse of teen-age awkwardness finding a friend to rest on, to trust. But this is a flashback and as we know, there's no path back after this.