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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

Boy gets Girl

Rebecca Gilman

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To purchase Boy gets Girl

Title: Boy gets Girl
Author: Rebecca Gilman
Genre: Drama
Written: 2000
Length: 120 pages
Availability: Boy gets Girl - US
Boy gets Girl - UK
Boy gets Girl - Canada
  • Boy gets Girl was first performed 13 March 2000 at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago

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Our Assessment:

B : disturbing, but the presentation not entirely convincing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph . 9/11/2001 Charles Spencer
The Guardian A- 8/11/2001 Michael Billington
The Independent . 12/11/2001 Kate Bassett
New Criterion . 4/2001 Mark Steyn
New York . 5/3/2001 John Simon
The New Yorker . 5/3/2001 Nancy Franklin
The New York Times . 21/2/2001 Ben Brantley
The Observer . 11/11/2001 Susannah Clapp
Time A+ 10/4/2000 Richard Zoglin
The Times . 9/11/2001 .
TLS . 23/11/2001 Robert Shore
Wall St. Journal . 21/2/2001 Amy Gamereman

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus

  From the Reviews:
  • "(M)ore entertaining than its earnest feminist themes might suggest. (...) Unfortunately Gilman isn't a writer who allows an audience to draw its own conclusions.(...) Nevertheless, the subtle final scene, in which Theresa tentatively but very movingly emerges from her shell with her male colleagues, reveals a writer who is also capable of great dramatic delicacy. And though Boy Gets Girl is flawed, it is undoubtedly a play that that will make men think and women shudder." - Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

  • "And even if the play has the faintly over-workshopped quality you often find in American drama, in which all the rough edges are planed down, it still exerts a fiercely intelligent grip. (...) What Gilman does expertly is show how the stalker invades every aspect of the victim's life: not merely her physical privacy but also her professional skill and sense of identity. If I have any qualm, it is that Gilman tries too hard to work in every possible viewpoint." - Michael Billington, The Guardian

  • "Keeping Tony menacingly just out of sight, Gilman focuses on the metaphorical "rape" of Theresa's identity as she has to abandon her apartment, her job, her name. Occasionally, the dramatist's survey of contemporary men's attitudes to women and vice versa feels slightly schematic, but it's a carefully balanced piece." - Kate Bassett, The Independent

  • "It's at this point that the play starts turning into the Women's Studies paper it always wanted to be. (...) But increasingly the scenes seem like staged illustrations of Professor Gilman's talking points: Tony doesn't appear at all in the second act, and his absence seems to confirm that he's just a pretext to kick-start the discussion. (...) There's much to admire, but the production can't quite conceal the gaping flaw: Miss Gilman never connects up the many issues she raises with her television movie plot; it's like talking about moose hunting while you're ice-fishing." - Mark Steyn, New Criterion

  • "Although slightly flawed, it is an effective play (...) The characters are cannily drawn, the dialogue is witty, idiosyncratic, and incisive. There is genuine suspense and mounting terror and only in one respect some inauthenticity." - John Simon, New York

  • "Gilman -- an acute and wiry writer -- puts her ideas into the structure rather than the speeches of her plays. She runs the risk of being too thematically neat. (...) But everyone performs unpredictably: one of the points of this penetrating drama is that the gap between motive and effect is enormous." - Susannah Clapp, The Observer

  • "Soon Theresa has a stalker on her hands. And we have one of the finest, most disturbing American plays in years. (...) Gilman has a tragic vision of a society in which men and women cannot see each other as human beings. Yet her social comment grows organically out of credible, unexpected characters (...) Boy Gets Girl grasps at big ideas, but reaches the heart and the head with equal force." - Richard Zoglin, Time

  • "Gilman dissipates the momentum and sparky dialogue of the first half with spoon-fed ideas about how culturally imposed roles for men and women are somehow at the root of Tony's maniacal behaviour. (...) As with any blind date, Gilman's play is best approached with an open mind. But you may still find its underlying suggestion that men are just waiting to get in touch with their inner stalker is somewhat specious." - The Times

  • "Women, here, are the arbiters of high culture and justice; in her office, Theresa alone knows who William Dean Howells is, while the sole representative of the forces of law and order in the play is Detective Madeleine Beck. The writing is not unsubtle. (...) The plotting is sometimes careless" - Robert Shore, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Boy gets Girl is a stalker drama. Theresa Bedell, a journalist for a New York magazine, The World, is set up on a blind date with Tony. They have a beer, then go out on a real dinner-date, but her heart isn't in it and Tony doesn't really do it for her, so she breaks things off before they ever really get started. Tony, however, sees things differently.
       Tony sends flowers, Tony calls incessantly, Tony gets completely obsessed. Theresa says he should leave her alone, but he's not convinced. Tony fades from the audience's view after the first few scenes -- he last appears midway through the first of two acts, and his voice is heard in one scene after that -- but he is always a menacing presence.
       Theresa grow progressively more concerned. Tony seems to know her every move. She contacts the police, but they -- in the person of officer Madeleine Beck -- are not exactly reassuring. There's only so much they can do -- and the first act closes with the following ominous exchange:

THERESA : Have you seen people killed ?
BECK : I've seen that.
THERESA : That wasn't the worst thing ? (Beat.) Detective ? (Pause.)
BECK : You don't want to know.
       Unfortunately the second act doesn't quite live up to the foreboding promise of these words. Theresa is essentially destroyed by Tony -- literally heading for the hills under an assumed name (a suggestion Beck had made early on) at the end, and Tony is responsible for her flight, but all along she isn't comfortable in her own skin or happy with herself. She doesn't bring this on herself, but she seems particularly susceptible: she has few close friends, her parents are dead, she hasn't heard from her alcoholic brother in six years, she doesn't know much about her colleagues. Personal relationships are obviously not her strong point, and in the play her relationships are all skewed. The most sympathetic person, police officer Beck, admits to having been trained in how to speak to people like Theresa. An interview subject -- breast-obsessed cult film director Les Kennkat -- doesn't get along with her at all first, but all is forgiven when her interview makes him a star again, at which point they seem to find some mutual understanding built on their previous antagonism and incompatibility. (This is perhaps helped by the fact that Kennkat pays for his perversion and loses his entire colon along the way.)
       Theresa's co-workers also aren't terribly helpful. She eventually moves in with her boss -- himself scarred from a failed marriage ("I haven't had a date since the Carter administration") -- which, predictably, doesn't please Tony. A young assistant, Harriet, tries too hard to help things along, muddling them further -- but she is easily (and then literally) dismissed: as Theresa tells her:
Okay ... (As if she wants to tell her so much, but doesn't have the time) Cute isn't everything.
       (That's part of the problem with the play too: too much -- even the hesitations ("Beat") -- has to be spelled out in the stage directions.)
       And there's co-worker Mercer, who admits to having had a thought or two about Theresa:
HOWARD : You didn't make a move ...
MERCER : No, of course not. I never would.
HOWARD : Then it's harmless.
MERCER : I guess. (Beat.) I don't know.
       The question of misunderstandings between men and women -- what did she mean ? is there a yes in that no ? and the like -- and the uncertainty about what is acceptable behaviour and what isn't dominate the play. There's little clarity -- even in Theresa's seemingly unambiguous statements: she makes it clear that she's not interested in Tony, but she obviously is in some way needy.
       The threat Tony poses is real and disturbing, but weakened in its effect because Theresa seems a broken person even without his terrible doings. Since Tony isn't seen for much of the play, her decline can't be completely tied to him (at least not in Gilman's presentation) -- one believes she might have eventually fallen apart similarly just under the weight of her own lonely world.
       The bits of the play are generally decent -- Gilman has a good ear for dialogue, and the Theresa-Tony dates rings very nicely true -- but in several of the scenes she tries too hard to make her points. Theresa's thoroughly unprofessional interviews with Kennkat are the least successful parts, and much of the play doesn't fit together ideally.

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Boy gets Girl: Reviews: Rebecca Gilman: Other books by Rebecca Gilman under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Gregory Dart on stalking and being stalked, in Unrequited Love
  • See the index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       American playwright Rebecca Gilman has received numerous awards for her work.

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© 2003-2009 the complete review

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