Girlfriend: Dump her

Fighting Chance Production is presenting Girlfriend at The Nest

Boys! Kiss already! (Photo of Julien Galipeau and Scott McGowan by Javier R. Sotres Photography)

If this show was a date, every person in the audience would have blue balls — and I’m including the people with ovaries. Girlfriend is an endless tease.

We’re in small-town Nebraska sometime in the 90s. Gay, geeky Will has just graduated from high school and he’s convinced he’s the only homo for miles. But, if that’s the case, why is Mike, the hunky football player, asking him to the drive-in?

Of course Will knows exactly why Mike is asking him to the drive-in. Everybody in the audience knows why Mike is asking Will to the drive-in. And Mike himself is pretty clear on his motivation. But Todd Almond’s book for this musical spends almost an hour toying with the question of whether or not Mike and Will will ever even kiss. Almost an hour is a very long time.

And there’s nothing subtle or substantial about the boys’ reticence. There’s no depth to the world that Almond creates, no eccentricity or specificity. Mike’s one-dimensional dad is a demanding homophobe but he’s never a real presence and Will and Mike don’t appear to really know or care about anybody or anything else. They just go to the drive-in a lot, talk in circles, and almost touch.

I’m laying none of this at the feet of the actors. Julian Galipeau lets his Will be a little fey, which is great: Galipeau’s Will is openhearted in his naïveté, but he puts enough spin on things that you can see that a sharper-tongued Will will emerge one day. And Scott McGowan brings an easy groundedness to Mike, a kind of soft butchness that Will would find attractive. Both actors sing well enough, often harmonizing sweetly — and McGowan’s voice is particularly attractive in its upper register.

But Matthew Sweet’s songs, which were inspired by his 1991 album Girlfriend, left virtually no impression on me. And, on opening night, “You Don’t Love Me”, which was performed by the two female members of the four-piece band, fell apart because of their vocals.

At 90 minutes, Girlfriend is too long — and it doesn’t know how to end. Not that it knows how to start.

GIRLFRIEND By Todd Almond. Music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet. Directed by Chris Lam. Presented by Fighting Chance Productions. At The Nest on Wednesday, December 11.  Continues until December 21. Tickets.


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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