In one of the first scenes in Boys’ Life, three guys are hanging out in what appears to be a teenage boy’s bedroom. Posters of grunge bands and busty girls hang on the wall, beer is stored in a dresser drawer, and empties are stacked on top beside a teddy bear. One man sits in his underwear taking shots of tequila with another, while the third plays air guitar on a chair in the corner. It’s a typical scene of boys having fun, but the boys in question are easily in their 30s.
Howard Korder’s 1988 play explores the question of why some boys never seem to grow up. Throughout the course of the play, the three main characters struggle to figure out what it means to be a man, confused as to whether their frequent misbehavior is a sign of manhood or regression. The ringleader, Jack (played with convincing douchebaggery by Brent Fox) is married with a kid but clings to the habits of his younger days, smoking pot and hitting on girls at the park. Don (Shawn Stoner), resident of the aforementioned bedroom, is starting a brand new relationship with a thoughtful waitress. And Phil (Footlight regular Christian Self), either the most idealistic or most full of shit of the three, does everything he can to get in an insecure girl’s pants.
Sex and how to get it is the main focus of all three men, at least in their conversations with one another. When they’re not talking about their exploits, they’re trying to convince girls to sleep with them — and stay with them — by using any desperate methods they can think of: begging, charm, alcohol, the L-word.
And the women fall for it in every case, whether agreeing to go home with an obviously married man or forgiving another for cheating while he’s still handcuffed to the bed from a previous tryst. It’s not clear if the women know what they want or if they’re just too stupid to realize they’re being used — unfortunately, we don’t get as much insight into these characters. Of the ladies, Lisa, played by Charleston native Anne Reid, is the smartest and most likeable. Actress Nthenya Ndunda (Girl) gets props for stripping down to her undies on stage and bringing the crazy.
As the play moves along, the characters start to feel a little stereotypical, their conversations and arguments too long and predictable at times. But as they slowly grow apart, they find themselves growing up, at least a little bit. The Footlight cast, directed by R.W. Smith, did a solid job of moving things along despite the slow moments. Between the racy bedroom scenes, pot-smoking, and bursts of profanity, things stay interesting even when the going gets slow. Boys’ Life is a perfect fit for Footlight’s LateNight series, and a good choice for anyone looking for a more contemporary theater experience.