Boy Gets Girl

Review by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- Theresa Bedell (Nancy Travis), a workaholic journalist, has a blind date with Tony (Mark Deakins), a handsome computer expert. They meet for a beer and a chat--and to look each other over, of course.

Theresa isn't exactly swept off her feet by Tony, but she does agree, after much near-desperate urging, to meet him a few nights later for dinner. Fifteen minutes into the date, though, she realizes that he isn't her type. Trying to be as nice as she can, she tells Tony that she has to leave and that she doesn't want to see him again.

These scenes are the best written and most effective ones in the play. Tony's creepiness and mounting obsession with her are only hinted at, but they are communicated to Theresa--and the audience--with deft, subtextual skill. There is one more direct confrontation between Tony and Theresa in Act One, when he comes to her office and angrily demands to know why she has rejected him.

After that, the two don't meet again, even though his romantic pursuit of her has turned to stalking--watching and following her, leaving messages on her phone machine, sending her threatening letters, and so on. The play then becomes a portrait of a woman trying to cope with an unseen but pathological enemy, one who so effectively terrorizes her that she must not only give up her apartment and job, but her very name and being to escape him.

Tony might not have laid a hand on her, but he has killed her nontheless, reduced her to a cipher, a thing. This is the point of Gilman's play, but, valid as it is, it doesn't necessarily make for great drama. Not having Tony as a visceral, palpable presence means that Gilman must fill the stage with subsidiary characters and subplots--three colleagues at work (Charles Janasz, Taylor Nichols, Julie Ann Emery), a detective (Monnae Michaell), and a Russ Meyer-like pornographer (James Farentino), who cracks vulgar jokes while being interviewed by Theresa.

Gilman further dilutes the strength and potency of her drama by breaking the narrative up into a slew of short scenes, each one of which requires a momentum-breaking set change. Television or film seems the better medium for a drama like this, if only because it would allow the playwright the opportunity to keep the all-important antagonist more in the story.

At the same time, BOY MEETS GIRL is praiseworthy for its stellar acting, direction (Randall Arney), set design (Andrew Jackness) and original music (Richard Woodbury). They make Gilman's less-than-successful play seem better than it is.

Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Ave. in Westwood. Call (310) 208-5454.