Good Boys and True By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Dates and Venue 9 – 19 September 2009; Mon – Sat 8pm, matinees on Sat at 2pm | Firehall Arts Centre

Director Jeff Hyslop Lighting Matt Frankish Costume Design Hilary Marsh Stage Manager Jelena Ikonomovic

Reviewer John Jane

Living in Toronto in the mid-eighties with a young family, I often found myself watching a children’s television show called Today's Special about a mannequin who magically comes to life the moment (the now defunct) Simpson’s department store closed its doors at 6pm. The mannequin was played by Jeff Hyslop. I was immensely impressed with his skill as a children’s entertainer. So, I suppose I was more surprised than I should have been to find him directing such heavyweight fare as Aquire-Sacasa’s socio-political play, Good Boys and True.

Hyslop wisely focuses on the work’s strengths as a morality play and as a cautionary tale of a gifted young man who believes himself to be “bullet-proof.”

Brandon Hardy is an over-achieving high school jock on the fast track to certain success. He is confident – perhaps even cocky – with a certain uncompromising petulance as witnessed in his opening introductory soliloquy where he discusses with arrogant charm life inside the hallowed walls of his elite Jesuit prep school. Brandon is also borderline gay.

Paraphrasing the British historian Lord Acton, “Privilege tends to corrupt, absolute privilege corrupts absolutely” wold seem a fitting way to set the play's essential theme. When an explicit sex tape falls into the hands of St. Joseph’s football coach Shea (played with a savvy, typically eighties, hard-nosed bearing by Greg Bishop), he suspects that the male participant is his team captain. With perhaps a little too much schadenfreude, he hands over the tape to Brandon’s mother for her examination.

After initially denying any participation, Brandon owns up to his role on the private video-tape that has now become very public, yet doesn’t recognize his behaviour as being particularly reprehensible. Brandon’s mother however, takes a far more demeritorious attitude to the matter, taking a “tough-love” approach: even if it means her son’s expulsion from school.

The play’s central character is unquestionably the enigmatic Brandon, but the weight of the story is carried on the slender shoulders of Teryl Rothery who plays Elizabeth Hardy with notable flexibility. She gets able support from Tara Fynn as the “good sister” Maddy.

The play’s most poignant scene is the meeting between Elizabeth and Cheryl, Brandon’s co-participant in the video recording (this is all before the advent of ‘YouTube’) where she works as a food court waitress. As Elizabeth tries to understand Cheryl’s motive for taking part, the younger women explains how a blue-collar girl struggles to ascend the social ladder.

This a competent cast that ably presents the primary elements of American establishmentarianism. Alex Coulombe is thoroughly convincing as the sexually ambiguous protagonist; Taylor Bishop is co-producer and performer; as well as contributing the eighties soundtrack to the production. As Brandon’s ‘special’ buddy Justin, he reads his lines well but appears to be a little long-in-the-tooth for a high school senior.

Matt Frankish’s lighting amid the stage’s multiple settings that include the coach’s office, locker room, the Hardy living room, Justin’s bedroom and food court restaurant showed intelligent use of focal light that isolated each scene. The many scene changes were executed smoothly and efficiently, though not exactly seamless.

Good Boys and True is an easy-to-watch, well constructed piece of theatre. Mr.Hyslop and his actors pretty much hit all the marks without transcending into the melodramatic.

© 2009 John Jane