Go See Nervous Boy

What you should do, if you are living in New York, is go see Nosedive Productions latest show “The Adventures of Nervous Boy”. I say this knowing full well that the more good I say about it, the higher your expectations will be and, ultimately, the bigger chance there will be for you to be disappointed, but I think the play is so good that I’m not worried about that. Go in thinking the play is great, it will just be confirmed for you.

Drama is all about interaction and stimulus-response, so the very hardest thing to write about is alienation. The plays and movies that are mostly about how difficult it is to survive the unbearable loneliness of modern big city America usually fall into one of three categories. A) They suck, they’re just self-involved tripe about how misunderstood some closet genius is, or, even worse, how misunderstood some perfectly average person is, B) They don’t suck, but they chicken out by having the disenfranchised character discover validation by entering back into the world of nonsense that they had originally identified themselves by eschewing or C) Something magical happens.

Nervous Boy is a phenomenal piece of magical subtlety, despite the moments when you feel like the show is overdrawn. Yes, a bar scene degenerates into pool-cue swinging cavemen, and yes, it appears that some of the characters may seem to be zombies, and sure, you realize that what you’re watching may not be real, may actually just be in the main character’s head… but that’s the beauty. It *might* be.

Because you can’t push it too far. There are a bunch of specifics in this play, the desperate measures we will take to connect into a world that we find loathsome, the people we scratch and claw our way toward despite the fact that we will have to become dumber in order to socialize with them, the idea that even the undead in our city want to be killed to separate them from this liminal existence (I’ve used the word liminal twice in the past five posts, I expect a dollar from every reader), but overall the feeling, despite the theatricality we’ve just witnessed, is that you leave the theater having seen truth.

These things might be in Nervous Boy’s head… but, on the other hand, if you stayed at that bar until 3:15 instead of leaving at 2:45, maybe these people turn in to cavemen. It wouldn’t be that big a surprise.

There are moments of horror in this play in the old-fashioned sense. There is blood, there is murder, there are monsters, and you never know how bad each moment will be. But the real horror, the moments of real dread, occur when the main character is trying to connect with people that he actually hates. He desperately paws at people who don’t like him, and with whom he shares nothing, no sense of history, no sense of future, no respect for their lives. And that is the most horrible thing that happens. The only time I had to hide my face behind my hands is when the words “I love you” are spoken.

The acting is fantastic, particularly the women in the cast. Every one of them is pitch perfect, moment to moment. Many plays use double-casting as a tool to protect the budget, and I’m sure that was a thought here, but to have the same faces and same bodies repeating throughout the play in the guise of different characters only reinforced the sense of alienation. A woman dies, then she shows up at a party as a Upper East Side jackass, then she’s a downtown slut in a bar, and each of these characters is developed physically, vocally and emotionally, you know the actress (Anna Krul ) is sensationally talented, but you see the same face.

The double casting is also fantastic with the stripper, Tai Verley, who goes from being a hardened faux-soft yuppie to an undead pseudo-prostitute, both characters beautifully realized and fully developed, but the beauty is knowing that the same face is on both women. Not enough can be said about the talents of Rebecca Comtois , who creates a character out of what in the hands of a lesser actor would be a caricature. Particularly difficult is the idea of being a young actress playing the part of a young actress, with affection but still a grain of truth.

That’ the real beauty of this production. We don’t hate Rebecca’s character, but we also know why Nervous Boy hates her, even as he clings to her as his closest female friend. The absurdity of the relationships we find ourselves in, the absurdity not of the world, although that’s included, but of our OWN BEHAVIOR. WHY!? We do shit that we can’t at all understand, and Nervous Boy doesn’t try to explain it to us, because even though we don’t understand why… we *know* why.

I haven’t seen that in a play. Ever.

I won’t comment on the lead actor. I’ll try to get in touch with him myself.

The writing and the directing are fantastic, to the point where I’m not only excited about what these guys will do next, but I’m excited about the idea of working with them one day. There is a little prayer you say at the beginning of a play, a prayer that apparently gets joked about in “The Drowsy Chaperone”. You pray it will be good, that it will be short and that there’s no audience participation. For the first time in a long time, I found myself hoping the play would keep going, the opposite prayer of most audience members everywhere.

Go see this show. You’ll be glad you did.