Bad date makes great theater

Boy Gets Girl

Harry Harris and Peter Mohrmann look on as Stephanie Gularte’s personal life crashes into her work life in <span style=Boy Gets Girl.">

Harry Harris and Peter Mohrmann look on as Stephanie Gularte’s personal life crashes into her work life in Boy Gets Girl.

Rated 5.0

Talk about a title you can interpret in different ways! A reasonably pleasant blind date leads to a very scary situation in this intense and absorbing production, which gets the new Capital Stage season off to a rousing start.

Boy Gets Girl features good writing and excellent acting, but what sends it into a special category are the challenging questions raised about what’s appropriate in contemporary relationships between men and women. Whether it’s a prospective romance, an interview between a female journalist and a director of trashy sexploitation films, or professional relationships between co-workers at the office, the outcomes that emerge vary from ironic observations on human nature to a terrifying rampage.

The script is by Rebecca Gilman, whose play Spinning Into Butter (produced at River Stage last year) offered a similarly dangerous and incisive style. Though that play tackled racial issues, Boy Gets Girl features an overworked, single female professional whose decision to make room in her busy life for a potential boyfriend leads to a catastrophic personal crisis. Again, Gilman offers no pat answers or easy exits.

Stephanie Gularte plays magazine writer Theresa Bedell in a performance that carries fascinating echoes of her breakthrough role five years ago, as a teenager propositioned by a creepy uncle in How I Learned to Drive. This time around, Gularte’s a 30-something dealing with a problematic guy who’s a tad younger. Her portrayal is dead-on, never shrill.

David Campfield plays the blind date, Tony, whose initial charm can’t quite conceal an unsettling sense that something’s wrong. Campfield has done well in similar parts before, like his role in Disability: A Comedy, in which he played a man in a wheelchair who was determined to get a girl (any girl) into bed; and in Bus Stop, as a hot-headed cowboy who abruptly abducts a reluctant showgirl. His work in Boy Gets Girl is disturbing and remarkably effective.

There are also excellent supporting performances by the sly Patrick Murphy (as an aging filmmaker à la Russ Meyer, whose movies were famous for gratuitous female nudity) and Tamara Walters (as a cop), plus Peter Mohrmann, Harry Harris and Michelle Murphy (as beleaguered office colleagues who aren’t quite sure how to help). Director Jonathan Williams slowly raises the heat but never lets the show boil over. Steve Decker’s rotating set is a beauty.