BWW Review: BOY at Keegan Theatre
Angry irony does not usually get used to describe the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein. But there isn't always a bright golden haze on the meadow. "You've got to be taught to be afraid/of people whose eyes are oddly made/and people whose skin is a different shade," came from his pen as did, "You've got to be taught before it's too late/before you are six or seven or eight. . . ." The character who sings these words in South Pacific is furious because he's a white man in love with an Asian woman, and in the late 1940s, he's surrounded by people who'd find her eyes to be oddly made. Adam Turner, the eponymous character in Anna Ziegler's Boy being taught what to be before it's "too late," also has the double whammy of being the person who doesn't fit society's idea of how to be. The situation jumps out of Hammerstein's league into Orwell's because it's doubleplusungood. But that word's off the table as applied to Keegan Theatre's fine production of the 90 minute Boy; directed with skill and compassion by Susan Marie Rhea.
John Jones leads Rhea's excellent cast in a noteworthy professional debut. Jones must play Adam Turner as both a child and as a young adult; and the range of emotions called for is also extensive. Jones fearlessly moves through Turner's dreadful life experiences and tender, lovely ones as well, making outstanding choices along the way. The work makes an audience feel what Turner endures and survives.
Mike Kozemchak and Karen Novack as Adam Turner's parents and Vishwas as Adam's doctor are each at their best in scenes with Jones. Kozemchak's plays Doug Turner's unexpected kindness towards his child with surprising delicacy in Ziegler's rendition of one of those "talks" parents often have with their young. Novack, who has portrayed Trudy Turner as a nervous woman concerned with surfaces during the 1970s, fiercely renders Trudy's evolution toward sincerity and inner clarity in the 1980s. Vishwas gives Dr. Barnes an endearing twinkle as he introduces Adam to British poets which humanizes an often manipulative character. Lida Maria Benson plays Jenny Lafferty, Adam Turner's friend. One of the production's finest moments occurs when Benson's Jenny simply sits on the floor next to Adam, the better to listen. Whether goofily, flirtingly drunk at a Hallowe'en party, sweetly and sensitively getting to know Adam Turner, or urgently pressing Adam for clearer communication, Benson nails Jenny, who actually is the only character in the play already wise and generous enough not to require being "carefully taught."
Matthew Keenan's set, which is minimal and absolutely fine, resembles an ultrasound. This only bears mentioning because prominent in Niusha Nawab's sound design is the sound of an ultrasound. There may be a metaphor in there somewhere, but the play's the thing.
Photo by Cameron Whitman