Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
The boys and girls in Dylan Coburn Gray’s extended prose-poem performance piece are Irish and their particular rant is about life and times in Dublin, which is a specific matrix of cultural fundamentals. Although “Boys and Girls” features four narratives (chapters), the speakers are identified only as A, B, C, and D and therefore these are universal stories that connect not only to all Irish youth, but to all boys and girls finding their way through the often difficult corridors of individuation and separation.
The boys’ and girls’ narratives ramble in rhyme about dating, language, intimacy, porn, love, lust, anger, and loyalty. They each chat themselves up and recount trysts gone well or gone not so well. They share their expectations about themselves and about others, their hopes often dashed, and what is expected of them culturally, socially, and personally. Boy A (Ronan Carey) shares, “No illusions, me, about being a virile Rambo.” Boy B (Sean Doyle) is “Uncomfortable with wild sex, speech acts that betray internalized misogyny.” Girl C (Maeve O’Mahoney) talks about her transgender friend Jen whose “make-up is awful.” And Girl D (Claire O’Reilly) admits that love just might be “someone who’ll aloe vera your sunburn when it’s peeling.”
Their sonorous beats belie the same despair of metaphysical nihilism that often plagued young W. B. Yeats in his attempts to hold together the center of his life. Other girls and boys named Laura, Ali, Jamie, and Marky” tear at the fabric of hopefulness in bedrooms and in the bars frequented by the Boys and Girls. There are only so many drinks (and counting) one can endure till dawn when Boy B for example realizes, “Maybe this contact’s an unspoiled affirmation.” Or “maybe it’s more of an ending. A full stop.” Girl D reflects, “Jamie’s idea of happiness ends where mine begins.”
In the end, like Voltaire, Boy A transcends the ennui and boasts, “I make the most of it, chill in my garden in the brittle chill as dew forms and sun rises, and soon enough two forms pass, surprised to see me. Jogger and his dog catch my eye, nod a greeting. ‘howye.” That is not bad. That gets as close to hope as perhaps we humans can expect in a world where humans videotape the beheading of other humans and share their horrific deeds on social media.
The piece ends as it begins with tight unaccompanied harmonies: at the beginning, these doo-wop harmonies are up-tempo and upbeat four-part harmonies that seem to celebrate youthfulness and hopefulness; at the end – reflecting the change in mood – the harmonies are monochromatic and severe and introduce each character’s final “confession.” Throughout, the prose-poetry is compelling and accessible. “Boys and Girls” is not for the weak of heart or of spirit and certainly not for those uncomfortable with “language.” This piece is gripping and gritty with a cathartic close that challenges even the stoniest of heart.