Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scattershot Thoughts On Gorilla Tango's The Adventures of Nervous-Boy

Well, let's get this out of the way first: yes, I enjoyed myself a great deal. It was a whole lot of fun watching the Chicago-based Gorilla Tango Theatre's production of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy, which Nosedive Productions staged here in New York back in 2006. It made me laugh loudly many times. Director Jamie DesRocher and the ensemble cast brought a lot of great energy to the show that made me very glad I was able to come to Chicago to see it.

Now, onto some random thoughts in no particular order. Bear in mind some of these musings are as much about my experience seeing my play performed by people I had never met before in a town I'm not very familiar with as they are about the production itself. (Yes, this is the first time a full-length play of mine has been staged outside of New York.) Also, I'm going to name-drop scenes and characters with no regard for anyone who hasn't seen or read the show, so I hope the uninitiated will forgive me.

I was able to get over the whole, "Who are you people and what are you doing saying my stuff?" feeling pretty quickly (about five minutes in) and go along for the ride. Since it was part of Gorilla Tango's Experimental Night Series, which presents hour-long plays, Jamie made some smart cuts to trim the show down to 55 minutes (Nosedive's production ran about 75). Most of them I barely noticed: a few trimmed lines from a long monologue here, a transitional scene there.

Obviously, there were many spots I couldn't help but compare and contrast the two productions. Nervous-Boy's (Nicholas Caesar) first encounter with Emily (Leslie Frame) was staged very similarly (hell, in both productions, they were seated at a table upstage left with Nervous-Boy to stage left of Emily), as was the play-within-a-play scene and the post play party scene.

In terms of big differences, the scene where Nervous-Boy meets a client and the one where he goes to a strip club are the two that diverge most from one another. Gorilla Tango's Client (Joe Von Bokern) is a frazzled nebbish office hack in a constant tizzy, easily spooked, throwing papers in the air when Nervous-Boy sneaks up on him, looking like he's due for a heart attack before the end of the year. Nosedive's Client (Marc Landers) was a soulless cyborg drone, eyes whited out, constantly typing, speaking in monotone, as if the company he works for surgically removed his personality. For me, both were pretty different yet spot-on ways to approach the character.

In the stripper scene, Nervous-Boy and the Stripper (Jaimelyn Gray) played the scene with an air of inevitability, as if she knew what was about to happen next, and couldn't care less. I liked how Caeser's detached performance seemed at home at the club. In other words, his disaffected demeanor was no longer caused by anxiety, but by comfort and confidence.

I liked the way Nervous-Boy's asshole friends, led by Grog (Scott Cupper), were presented as frat boy douches (wearing either ties around their foreheads or golf visors). (In our show, led by Patrick Shearer, they were presented as cavemen.) The way they staged the phone call Nervous-Boy makes to Grog near the end of the play had me cackling. It read instantly, and it was one of those, "I can't believe we never thought of that!" moments for me.

And Amy Whittenberger's Skank was goddamn hilarious.

One of the things that took me a little by surprise was how the election of Obama has dated the script. In the program, the production specifically makes the setting New York in 2005 and added a line or two about President Bush (in the script there are oblique references to war, the President [unnamed] and the divided election). This makes a lot of sense: anyone suggesting to young Chicago theatergoers that President Obama is going to destroy us all would not go over well.

Added to that, this past election wasn't particularly divided. So I found it interesting that already the script is in a sense a period piece portraying a very specific recent period in time.

(Now, this could and probably will change whenever we inevitably elect a warmongering dipshit into the Oval Office again, but for now, such political references, even ones I had intended to be vague, date the show to a pre-Obama, Bush Jr.-era New York.)

Also, I liked the recurring motif of characters taking pictures on their cameras throughout. It was put to particularly good use when a guy takes a photo of his girlfriend's body after he kills her, as if preparing to post it on his Facebook page later. People are creepy.

I dug everyone in the cast, which also included Neil Robertson Huff, Dennis Schnell and Anthony Stamilio. They all clearly had a lot of fun putting this show on, and it shined through in the performance I saw.

It was a fascinating experience seeing a new group of people perform a play my company had staged, especially since it was a show that I had heard 15 times in a row three years ago, then hadn't revisited since. Congratulations, guys. It was awesome getting to meet you and see you stage my play. Have a great rest of the run.

I'm hoping to write up some scattershot thoughts on my first impressions of the Chicago theatre scene soon. Bear in mind they'll be from an outsider looking in, and only looking in at a small section for a brief period of time, so caveat emptor.

For those of you in the Chicago area, The Adventures of Nervous-Boy has two more performances at the Gorilla Tango Theatre on 1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue: Monday, August 17 and Monday, August 24. For tickets go here.

Puttin that on his Facebook,

James "Dated Sociopath" Comtois

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