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Some strong performances buoy Circle's inconsistent 'Boy'
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff

The titular boy (John Wehrman), left, and the boyish Mick (Steven Camara) have an uncomfortable encounter in Circle Theatre's "Boy."

 

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Published: 1/18/2008 12:20 AM

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Theater's suburban talent pool may not be as deep as Chicago's, but that doesn't mean it has run dry.

Noteworthy performances by Steven Camara and newcomer John Wehrman in Circle Theatre's Midwest premiere of "Boy" -- Julia Jordan's play about a troubled young man who insinuates himself into a troubled Minneapolis family -- attest to that. Both of them are very good in a play that falls short.

Their tension-filled scene late in the play, where Camara's failed actor Mick (the play's metaphorical boy) encounters his literal counterpart, (the titular Boy) played by the charismatic Wehrman, ranks among the high points of director Chris Arnold's production of this intriguing drama that's almost very good.

"Boy" is a confounding play. Its careful craftsmanship is reflected in Jordan's subtle disclosure of details (heed Arnold's program notes and pay attention, you'll be glad you did) and in an ending more disturbing than it initially appears. And it has an intriguing premise: People attempting to craft an ending to their life stories.

The play, which unfolds as a series of flashbacks, begins with Mick (fine work from Camara as the discontented thirtysomething) who has returned home to Minneapolis after failing to make it as an actor, crawling into the bedroom of his former girlfriend, Sara (Lindsay Nance), a medical student and aspiring pathologist. The scene then shifts to the office of Terry (Dennis Newport), Mick's father and a depressed psychiatrist who's treating the enigmatic Boy (a powerful, passionate Wehrman), a bright, stereotypically disaffected, casually insolent stoner recovering from a traumatic event. A natural if unconventional storyteller, the Boy is also taking an introductory literature class from Mick's mother Maureen (Rula Sirhan Gardenier), who also happens to be Terry's wife.

Depression, disappointment and desperation abound in this cleverly crafted puzzle. But not all the pieces fit. Jordan fixates on the storytelling angle to the point that it becomes tiresome. The secondary characters are underdeveloped, and their emotional transitions are too abrupt to ring true.

That said, she has penned a couple of compelling scenes. The aforementioned confrontation between Mick and the Boy echoes the sibling spats in Sam Shepard's "True West" being one. In fact, Shepard's presence can be felt in the repeated references to his work and in the stark, naturalistic dialogue and the undercurrent of menace that characterizes Jordan's play. The others include the exchanges between Mick, the prodigal son who's failed to live up to his potential, and his mother, Maureen, a teacher frustrated that her academic career has stalled at the junior college level. The scenes between Camara and Gardenier crackle. Unfortunately, the rest of the production doesn't consistently sustain that energy.

"Boy"

2½½

stars out of four

Location: Circle Theatre, 7300 W. Madison St., Forest Park

Times: 8 p.m. Fridays to Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; through Feb. 24

Running time: About two hours, with intermission

Parking: On the street

Tickets: $24

Box office: (708) 771-0700 or www.circle-theatre.org

Rating: For adults, strong language, sexual content, mild violence