Review "The Boys Room": A Coming of *Middle* Age Story

Victory Gardens presents

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At 2433 N. Lincoln
Written by Joel Drake Johnson
Directed by Sandy Shinner
Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru February 20th 
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Ninety-five minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Two brother fight over who gets the twin bed by the window.  Typical!?  Sure, unless they are forty year old runaways hiding from life.  Victory Gardens presents the world premiere of THE BOYS ROOM.  Ron is a married dentist with a teenage daughter.  Tim is a recently divorced, unemployed, father of three.  Susan is a retired nurse learning Spanish to woo a potential boyfriend.  To Ron and Tim, Susan is mom.  Her house is home.  As Susan embarks on a new phase to expand her horizons, her sons take refuge in returning to their past.  When Ron’s daughter shows up to retrieve her wayward father, ‘going home again’ gets more complicated.  Who is the parent? Who is the child?  ‘Boomerang children’ are grown-up kids that return home.  THE BOYS ROOM is a coming of *middle* age story that proves a midlife crisis is best experienced at home with your mommy.

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Playwright Joel Drake Johnson sheds a porchlight on a current dilemma of the economic times.  Parents forced to support their adult children.  Johnson looks at the baby boomers.  This generation came to adulthood in the materialistic 80’s-90’s surplus.  Johnson pens a tale of American dream chasers halted by the inevitable harsh reality of good-times-are-never- here-to-stay. In a play entitled THE BOYS ROOM, the ladies rule the space.  With her bookend stealing scenes, Mary Ann Thebus (Susan) starts off as a sharp, ball-busting mother.  She is hilarious denying her son pie and accusing him of lying.  Later, Thebus finishes off with a poignant, heart-tugging narrative.  She is harsh and kind, a complex character.  With strong grandma-daughter-friend chemistry, Thebus endears interacting with Allison Torem (Roann).  They share secrets, lipstick and translation with a loving zest. Torem balances perfectly teen uncertainty with young adult decisiveness.  She has a powerful scene confronting her father.  It leaves her and the audience in a sad, puddle of exhaustiveness.  These women dominate in a show that could be relabeled MAMA’S HOUSE.   

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But…. it is called THE BOYS ROOM!  It’s not that Joe Dempsey (Ron) and Steve Key (Tim) weren’t fine, it’s just that they aren’t likable.  Yes, their characters are weak but their backstories don’t have to be.  When Dempsey and Key interact, they revert back to children.  It’s a childish schtick that annoys not amuses.  They are whiny, spoiled brats.  Johnson needs to give the audience more of a reason to care about these guys.    Johnson has fleshed out two strong females and two weak males. The sum doesn’t quite add up to victory.  With a little more grown-up, THE BOYS ROOM will make a solid place to probe an interesting parent-child trend in the making.   

Quoting Dick from a review gone by, James describes it with ‘room with a boo-hoo.’

Production photography courtesy of Liz Lauren.   

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