Wearing Coke-bottle glasses and dorky bangs, Guy Rose (Christopher Wright) is the quintessential geek. No wonder his snooty, rich-boy lover, Clarence (Craig Bushey), is so put out when he finds himself stood up at the altar. After all -- according to the fantastically silly logic of Bill Solly and Donald Ward's 1975 musical Boy Meets Boy -- it's the 1930s. And as newly imagined, this time of top hats and tuxedo tails was a period when men could marry men and "gentlemen were still gentle." Guy Rose, this odd story's hero, is supposed to be a very gentle fellow, not the sort who'd ever leave somebody hanging at the church.
Out of this inane beginning flows the bubble-thin story of goofy Rose's coming of age. Soon the bespectacled ugly duckling becomes a beautiful (and half-naked) swan, who learns about the meaning of real love as he becomes the object of every boy's desire.
Back in the '70s, when Boy Meets Boy enjoyed its status as one of the first gay-themed musicals, this Cinderfella story ran for almost a year in New York City. These days, the naive tale comes off as vaguely foolish, and as directed by Watts, the bare-bones production at Theatre New West doesn't give the quaint story any of the help it needs to kick it into the 21st century.
Boy Meets Boy
Theatre New West, 1415 California
Through November 17; $20. 713-522-2204
The lights come up on a rather stiff-haired, tight-lipped Casey O'Brien (David Brett), a supposed playboy news reporter in search of a story. When he gets wind of upper-crust Clarence's gay wedding, Casey shows up to cover it. Trouble starts when Guy Rose never appears; the love-'em-and-leave-'em Casey is intrigued. He makes it his mission to find and interview Rose, imagining that Rose must be as beautiful as the flower that bears his name.
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Of course, we know that Rose is just a goony guy in horn-rimmed glasses, but he's sweet and true, and that's what's important. The plot twists and turns until somehow the shallow Casey finds himself falling for Rose, who has blossomed into a studly head-turner. The men decide to run away and live happily ever after.
A great deal of singing weaves its way into the story. Narcissistic Clarence wonders why anyone would leave "beautiful" him at the altar in "Me." Casey revels in the joys of the single life in "Giving It Up for Love." And Guy sings an amusing ditty about his frumpy looks in "You're Beautiful." None of the music is memorable. And the lyrics, which include such lines as "forbidden fruits are ripe and it's time to suck," are sophomoric.
But it's the earnestness with which this ridiculous show is delivered that completely unravels the production. During "It's a Boy's Life," we find out that both Casey and Guy grew up as Boy Scouts. Written long before current right-wing Boy Scout politics, the song now offers a terrific opportunity for sardonic wit, but remarkably, the cast plays it without a trace of irony. Instead, Watts has directed his inexperienced actors to deliver the dull material with a saccharine sweetness and a from-the-heart sincerity that crush any of the joy that this potentially campy story could and should inspire today.
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