Thursday, July 23, 2015

'Girlfriend,' A Sweet Coming Of Age Love Story

(l-r) Ryder Bach is Will and Curt Hansen is Mike

By Darlene Donloe

Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on regarding same sex relationships, you’ll feel good about the show Girlfriend, currently playing through Aug. 9 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

The audience is witness to a high school coming of age love story between a nerd named Will (Ryder Bach) and a popular jock named Mike (Curt Hansen). It’s an unlikely relationship on a couple of levels. Traditionally high school jocks and nerds are polar opposites, do not associate, are not friends, wouldn’t be caught dead with the other and certainly wouldn’t become intimate.

Todd Almond’s brilliant Girlfriend explores the notion of this unusual, unexpected blossoming of love between two male teens who would otherwise never share air space.

The musical, inspired by Matthew Sweet's 1991 alternative rock album of the same title, takes the audience on a slow, but sweet journey to love.

This two-character musical, backed by a live, kick-ass, all-female rock band led by Julie Wolf and featuring Vivi Rama, Janet Robin and Jyn Yates, is now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. 

The show takes place in Alliance, Neb., in 1993.
Will and Mike are leaving high school and about to embark on adulthood.  Mike, who loves music, is going away to college to study medicine in order to please his father. Will, who is just happy his high school days are over because of the lack of acceptance, is not sure what he’s going to do.

One day, unexpectedly, Will receives a call from Mike who invites him to the drive-in. Huh? Yeah!  The film, which Will doesn’t like but endures because he wants to get to know Mike, is apparently hilarious and very campy.  It’s a violent comic-book adventure about a nun who becomes a superhero and then morphs into a space alien.

When they first meet Mike gives Will a mixed tape of his favorite music. When he receives the tape, Will exclaims, "I thought: my life has finally become the musical I always suspected it was."

Mike, who has a girlfriend who attends a different school, has decided to throw caution to the wind and live in his own truth. While he’s still concerned about his reputation, he’s tired of the lies. On one of their drive-in dates, Will spots some of Mike’s friends in another car. Mike asks Will to duck down so no one can see them together. But as soon as Will complies, Mike regrets his requests and asks Will to sit up. He decides right then to stop the hiding.

Both Will and Mike are incredibly patient – to a fault.

After about a million trips to the drive-in to see the same movie, yes, the same movie, Will and Mike, who have only had superficial conversations that usually end up with one word answers like, “yep” and “ums,” finally decide to explore their feelings. First, it’s a simple touch, sitting closer and finally – du du duuuuu – the kiss.

Girlfriend is an incredibly romantic, sweet and touching story that could easily swap out the characters with two females, or a heterosexual couple. After all Love is Love!

Girlfriend, book by Todd Almond and directed by Les Waters, stars Ryder Bach and Curt Hansen. Choreography by Joe Goode, music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet.

Kudos to a fabulous set by David Zinn.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah), E (excellent), Girlfriend gets an E (excellent).

 Girlfriend, Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 9; $25 to $59 (ticket prices subject to change); (213) 628-2772,

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, with no intermission.

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