Those old enough to remember Dan Kiley's 1985 pop-psychology masterwork, “The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up,” will recognize the male characters of “Boys' Life.” It's as though Howard Korder decided to write a companion piece to Kiley's work. The Pulitzer-nominated play takes the audience into the emotionally stunted world of Jack (Joe Carlson), his childhood friend, Phil (Andrew Donnelly) and college buddy, Don (Landon Nagal), in which these overgrown children play at being adults, trading Legos for women, pot and alcohol.
The play is constructed of revealing vignettes as the boys expose their true characters in the pursuit of women. Jack, the core character, is made acerbically witty and dangerously charming through Carlson's apt portrayal of a wife-supported father who seeks validation through an affair. The best chemistry of the play happens between Nagal and his real life sweetheart, Maggie Marlin (Lisa), as a mismatched love pairing. Marlin outacts everyone in the cast as a humorless waitress who, for no apparent reason, puts up with Don's immature behavior. The best scenes of the play are about these two struggling to make a valid connection, showcasing Marlin's flawless timing and complex character development.
The fast pace of the show is facilitated by set designer Edwin Slipek Jr.'s incorporation of a rotating set [disclosure: Slipek is Style's senior contributing editor]. Three separate sets built on a spinning platform allow for quick changes not often available on the Firehouse's small, curtainless stage — they greatly contribute to the TVlike quick pace required for the play.
Whether you live in a world of Peter-Pan men, identify with them or would like to learn to avoid them, “Boys' Life” will strike chords of familiarity. To paraphrase Peter himself, growing up can be an awfully big adventure. S
“Boys' Life” runs Thursdays through Sundays through Oct. 3 at the Firehouse Theatre Project. Tickets are $25. Call 355-2001 or visit www.firehousetheatre.org.