Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary hits on some real topics
By Doug Strassler
What would playwrights do if the dating scene was an easy one to navigate? Lonely hearts’ losses, however, are audience’s gains in Larry Kunofsky’s new play “Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary,” a skewed look at the youth dating scene that manages to poke many a hole through the clichés of typical looks at loneliness and connection. However, the production, which director Meg Sturiano has staged in the claustrophobically uncooperative space at Under St. Mark’s, doesn’t always do justice to Kunofsky’s clever ideas.
Boyfriend begins innocuously enough. Friends and frenemies alike refuse to believe that Marci (Darcy Fowler)’s newly-announced, unseen boyfriend really exists. Even his name sounds made up: Phillip Abramakowskovitch. Marci embarks on a wild goose chase to prove that her absent boyfriend exists, and, more importantly, that she isn’t a liar. Marci may belong to a scene, but as “Boyfriend” amusingly reminds us, she doesn’t quite fit in. Why wasn’t she invited to a party thrown by supposed pal Cassandra (Risa Sarachan)? Almost as if having emerged from a fugue state, Marci crashes the party in bedclothes she has worn for at least the last 24 hours searching for Beth (Kirsten Hopkins). Beth, in turn, is roommates with Toddwhatshisname (Debargo Sanyal, reprising the valley boy delivery that has become his stock-in-trade), who has a connection to someone else who has a connection to Phillip.
Kunofsky plays coy with the information he dispenses. Is Marci lying? Crazy? Her friends suggest that she has a history of inventing a relationship, and even stalking, Hunky Dave (Quinlan Corbett). Only her friend Denise (a grounded Maya Lawson) seems to trust Marci implicitly, and even she might have ulterior motives for doing so. Throughout, with a perfect blend of weariness, indignation, and vulnerability, Hopkins does a marvelously subtle job of suggesting what so many people her age endure. Marci is over this crowd, but still needs their approval.
Sturiano is resourceful, but her staging of Marci’s journey through this heart of darkness eventually clutters some of Kunofsky’s message, and confuses what should be a warm, conclusive final scene. Though well lit by Grant Wilcoxen and economically decorated by set designer Kyle Dixon, the ensemble spends too much of the play mugging in the background while key action occurs center stage. The same actors play multiple roles, and it takes some time to discern who is who at what point, particularly in the play’s first half as the audience cottons to the rhythms of the play. On that note, so to speak, I wish Sturiano had used a less-is-more approach to the music in the show. It underserves Kunofsky’s tone as the play’s themes develop, and actually undercuts some of the finely etched work done by the show’s cast.
And it is a wonderful cast, particularly those who fill out Kunofsky’s amusing but instructional tangent scenes. This includes Sarachan (who feasts on a simple character nugget in which Cassandra gives Marci a lamp); Zach Evenson as Carl, a similarly lost boy preyed upon by Toddwhatshisname; and Jordan Mahone and Danielle Slavick, who make the most of an elaborate thread as Paul and Paula Paul, a couple who have invited their friends to celebrate the event of their bittersweet divorce. It’s friends like these who remind Marci that, like it or not, people will always need people.
Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary
Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, thru April 28. www.smarttix.com.
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