After college but before marriage, the typical 20-something American male often finds himself torn between two worlds. There’s the shameless party boy, who picks up chicks and spends more time in bars than in his own apartment. And then there’s the maturing adult, who cultivates relationships with women and holds down a career and social life.
That’s the conflict in which Jack, Don and Phil, the protagonists in the Maine Masque’s production of Howard Korder’s “Boys’ Life,” find themselves. The play, which opens at 7:30 tonight at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus, tells the tale of three friends making their way in the big city and making lots of mistakes along the way.
Director Simon Ferland chose “Boys’ Life” because it’s contemporary (it debuted on Broadway in 1988) and it’s unflinching in its language and viewpoint.
“I have found that a lot of the plays that are produced here [at the Maine Masque] pass over the 20-something age range altogether,” said Ferland, a senior theater and math major. “I wanted to do a play that was more accessible to the students on the UMaine campus. I wanted students to see this play, identify with a character, and feel a part of the play itself.”
At the core of the play is the fact that none of the characters wants to admit to himself or to one another the things that they like and don’t like about their lives. Jack is married with children, but cheats on his wife. Don has a relationship, but comes very close to ruining it by sleeping with another woman. Phil is sweet, naive and vulnerable, and trips over himself to find love.
“The play says a lot about how men communicate with one another, as well as with the women in their lives,” said Ferland. “There’s a lot that goes unsaid and unexplained.”
The play itself is witty and sarcastic and often laced with David Mamet-esque torrents of eloquent profanity. Despite being written in the 1980s, it doesn’t feel particularly dated. Lead actors Craig Douglas, Edward Benson and Sam Watson (Jack, Don and Phil, respectively) imbue their performances with plenty of youthful energy.
One of the aspects of the play that most interests director Ferland is that communication, the most vital aspect of any relationship, is often the thing that ends up destroying it in the first place. Whether it’s pride, narcissism or fear that leads to it, friendships between men can end up falling apart because neither person wants to admit the truth.
“[I think] the problem that contributes to the demise of men’s friendships is that they do not communicate what they’re thinking and feeling,” said Ferland. “They play games and skirt around the issues. I hope that people will be able to see the importance of living in the real world and men specifically will understand the importance of communication.”
“Boys’ Life” runs from April 8 to 11 at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus, with performances at 7:30 each night, and a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Admission is free to students. For more information, call 581-4703.