BWW Review: Carey Mulligan Considers Violence and Gender in Dennis Kelly's GIRLS & BOYS

Perhaps some of the good people at Britain's Royal Court are in need of a hug these days. This week New York playgoers welcomed two transfers of exceedingly violent productions from that celebrated London theatre. But while over at The Public, the bloody finish of David Ireland's CYPRUS AVENUE is played out in front of audiences, at the Minetta Lane, viewers of Dennis Kelly's solo piece GIRLS & BOYS only hear about its repulsive event.

BWW Review:  Carey Mulligan Considers Violence and Gender in  Dennis Kelly's GIRLS & BOYS
Carey Mulligan (Photo: Marc Brenner)

And we're fortunate that the nameless woman relating the details is played by Carey Mulligan, who, guided by director Lindsey Turner, gives one of those remarkably naturalistic performances that tricks you into thinking there's little or no acting involved.

Playing one of those, as they say on social media and on over-priced t-shirts, intelligent, classy, well-educated women who say "fuck" a lot (...a lot), Mulligan alternates between standing downstage before a blank wall and talking about her husband and taking care of her young son and daughter (unseen) at home.

As in any good romantic comedy (and quite a bit of GIRLS & BOYS is very funny), the woman takes an immediate dislike to the man she will eventually marry. While standing on line (queuing up, actually... this is a British play) at the Naples airport, she's outraged to see that he's so engrossed in his book that he allows a bit of a gap to form in front of him. But her opinion changes when he refuses the flirtations of a pair of models looking to use him to cut to the front. ("But...we're models!" one of them exclaims in disbelief.)

But their marriage begins going sour when he can't deal with her career taking off while his business collapses, and things get scary when she says she wants a divorce.

Meanwhile, in scenes where the presence of her young children Leanne and Danny are imagined, we get a sense of their contrasting personalities, especially when Leanne wants them all to play a game pretending she's an architect while Danny insists they play war.

Is the propensity towards violence an overwhelmingly male trait? History and statistics do seem to back up that theory.

BWW Review:  Carey Mulligan Considers Violence and Gender in  Dennis Kelly's GIRLS & BOYS
Carey Mulligan (Photo: Marc Brenner)

But, as the woman warns, "I am, of course, just giving you one side. My side. But there you go, that's what happens when you have just one person talking."

To that point, set designer Es Devlin bathes nearly every bit of the stage in powder blue, with the exception of a few colorful props that stand out, suggesting differences In Focus and memory. And if you consider traditional color assignments, the dominating hue also places her in a male-centric environment.

Coming at the heels of a transfer of David Cale's solo play HARRY CLARKE, which starred Billy Crudup, GIRLS & BOYS is produced by Audible, a company specializing in releasing downloadable audiobooks and other spoken word entertainment. The company has taken up residency at the Minetta Lane Theatre with plans to produce and record numerous plays that focus on storytelling .

Great idea, but no replacement for seeing Carey Mulligan's exceptional performance live.

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From This Author Michael Dale

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