Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary. That is the dilemma the characters in Larry Kunofsky’s new comedy face in the Horse Trade Theater Group’s latest production. The title is so wonderfully clear and so admirably direct. I am ecstatic to report that so is the acting, writing and directing.
The play follows Marci (Darcy Fowler) on a Saturday night in New York City as she attempts to track down her missing boyfriend. On her journey, she visits a variety of house parties where she and the audience meet a plethora of zany characters, most of whom don’t believe the cute-but-not-gorgeous-or-whoreish Marci even has a boyfriend. These supporting characters are real zany. Not trying-too-hard-to-be-zany zany. The drunk, selfish, depressed 30-somethings who litter the stage also litter the parties we've all attended; that's what makes the play so engaging. And we’ve got Marci to keep this whole thing afloat as the straight character with a major goal to accomplish: find that boyfriend -- if he does exist.
Even though the actors make wildly different choices, they are united as a powerful ensemble. Fowler delivers a subtle yet colorful performance. She has the difficult task of justifying her choices amidst the peculiar people her Marci encounters over the evening. Yet she always does. She has a lengthy phone conversation with the completely wasted Toddwhatshisname (Debargo Sanyal) but it doesn’t strain credibility. I believe the good-hearted Marci would give the not-so-good-hearted Todd the time of day and watching Fowler deal with the obstacles that arise (mainly phone calls and drunk people) is continuously gratifying.
Risa Sarachan is a standout as Cassandra, who is hosting the first party Marci attends. Her presentational performance is spot-on and completely fitting, unlike the last play I saw - Four Dogs and a Bone - which had the actors speaking out for no good reason. Here, there’s a reason: Cassandra wants to impress her houseguests and ensure they all think she’s the sweetest, prettiest hostess that ever walked the earth. It’s hilarious.
Quinlan Corbett nails the role of Hunky Dave. He’s hott and seductively charismatic although he’s pretty much a manipulative scumbag who just wants to hook up. We all know this guy and we love to hate him. It’s a minor character but Corbett makes him one of the most memorable. One moment where Marci calls Dave out (and is probably one of the only women to ever do so) is perfect.
Zach Evenson offers a nice change of pace as Carl, the nice guy everyone thinks is gay. He’s warm and he’s understated and he’s awkward and he’s such a welcome presence. Evenson and Fowler have a chemistry that ignites their scene. I almost wish Marci stopped her journey right there and stayed with Carl. But alas…
…there’s more crazies to meet, like Debargo Sanyal’s Toddwhatshisname. Sanyal was one of the only standouts in Red Fern’s recent Created Equal and he is on fire once again. He has the tendency to play obnoxious characters that in the hands of a less capable actor would be over-the-top in all the wrong ways. But Sanyal is a powerhouse performer. His Toddwhatshisname is loud, abrasive, sad, and self-possessed. Yet he’s believable. The energy and commitment Sanyal brings to his performance demands attention. Also excellent is Danielle Slavick as Paula Paul, who’s throwing a Divorce Party. Her sing-songy line delivery is an especially funny touch.
Enhancing these stellar performances is smooth direction by Meg Sturiano (the choregraphy, staging and support from the ensemble during every scene is quite a feat) and a space that is absolutely appropriate for the party vibe of the play. In fact, one of the only missteps comes during the last ten minutes of the show. While a phone call from Toddwhatshisname is funny, the same cannot be said for the long conversation between Marci and Denise (Maya Lawson) that ends the play. Lawson, overly comic and borderline creepy in the first scene, launches into a sleepy monologue about a woman she once loved. Because Marci and Denise’s relationship is not developed as a real, genuine, non-campy, non-shticky one, I in no way believe the two would have this ludicrously elongated heart-to-heart. Being forced to deliver some of Kunofsky’s Diablo Cody-esque ‘look, I’m a witty teen, and to prove it, I will speak these overly-clever witty teen lines’ does not help. After saying things like ‘doucheclown’ and ‘non dorkitude,’ I would have hung up on Denise.
But luckily, the last scene’s failure does not sink the production. All-in-all, Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary is an inventive and refreshing little gem that’s definitely worth your time.
Playing April 5-28 at Under St. Marks.