‘Girlfriend’ Charms at The Know
Review by Liz Eichler of Girlfriend: Know Theatre
Sweet is the best way to describe the Know Theatreâ€™s production of â€œGirlfriend.â€ It is written by Todd Almond, with music and lyrics by singer songwriter Matthew Sweet, taken from his 1991 album also named â€œGirlfriend.â€ There are so many moments of truth, where you find yourself remembering the awkwardness of your first love, that you canâ€™t help but melt and smile. It is a universal story; it just so happens to be the story of two guys, one, flamboyant and used to ridicule, the other, an athlete awakening to a new attraction.
Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer has skillfully paced this love story, which revolves around the love of music, and it sounds great, thanks to musical director Erin McCamley and the band.
The charm of this show rests in Cary Davenportâ€™s portrayal of Mike. He captures the honesty of a teenager, and reels you in. The audience smiles when he smiles. We giggle when we feel his vulnerability or bravado. Montez Jenkins, as flamboyant Will, is strongest when he becomes more vulnerable. We remember our own fits and starts of connecting with someone for the first time andÂ both actors load these awkward pausesÂ with meaning.
One of the most moving scenes is the amazing dance on the bed, and the choreographer, Kim Popa, allows the characters to sing their inner monologues with their bodies. She also captures a playful and infectious synchronicity as they dance with moving boxes. But the first dance surprises the audience, (someone in the audience whispered, â€œoh, thereâ€™s dancingâ€). There is no transition into it being a dancing musical; the moves do not feel organic to the characters at that point and is quite jarring.
The technical elements are simple and effective.Â The set evokes the roughness of a barn, which is bathed in the light of the varying emotions, both designed by Andrew J. Hungerford.Â The use of the corded telephone signals that the play was written in a time where the stakes were much higher for the two young men.
I encourage audiences to see this sweet show.Â It is not without flaws, but you will be moved. Â â€œGirlfriendâ€ runs through August 27. Get your tickets at knowtheatre.com or call 513-300-5669.