Boys will be boys, or so the saying goes. But what happens when those boys become men who, in a state of arrested development, keep acting like boys? The Footlight Players’ LateNight season opener takes a look at this problem in Howard Korder’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, Boys’ Life.
Directed by R.W. Smith, the play investigates the relationships between three men — each struggling to accept the responsibilities that come along with adulthood — and their respective partners, from wives to mistresses to unforgiving girlfriends. “I’d always felt that this play is looking at that challenge of boys becoming men and how often they fail to do it, and in exploring why they make the choices they do,” Smith says. “What’s great about the piece is that it’s not just a play for guys. Women will recognize immediately the three guys in this play, each one with their own issues that they’re dealing with.”
There’s Phil, the needy one; Don, the ladies’ man who’s jonesing to settle down; and Jack, the philandering married guy. Though the play is set in the 1980s, Smith recognized the relevance of the three characters today and decided to adapt it to modern times.
“After they told me that they were going to do the show, I kept watching all these sex scandals in the news, be it John Edwards or all these other politicians or celebrities who were having affairs. I kept going back to the script and thinking how hard it is for people to stay together. This play does a really good job of exploring that,” he says. “In the end, does this play answer all those questions? No. But it helps show us some of the reasons why we do some of the things we do.”
Though Smith has worked extensively with PURE Theatre and Theatre 99, this production marks his first collaboration with the Footlight Players. “I have a relationship with them, but this is my first time working with them professionally. They have given me their trust to make this show, and it’s been great,” he says.
Smith selected a cast of fresh talent in the Charleston theater scene, including Shawn Stoner as Don, Brent Fox as Jack, Christian Self as Phil, Laura Artesi as Karen, Anne Reid as Lisa, Abby Kammeraad-Campbell as Maggie, Janet Bowler as Carla, and Nthenya Ndunda as the Girl. “I’m excited to be working with new young actors in Charleston. A lot of these people haven’t been on stage here before,” Smith says.
Though the plot of Boys’ Life may sound like a male version of Sex and the City at first glance, it’s actually a poignant script, full of witty and sarcastic moments intertwined with real issues that arise in contemporary relationships. “What I really pushed these actors to do is to find that source of comedy and explore what is driving these characters, and that makes these characters more real,” he says. “It’s about how we try to connect with people as we try to get into relationships, which is a hard thing. Dating’s not easy.”
Smith had wanted to work on the play for more than a decade. “It was a show I had seen 15 years ago. I thought it was a fun show and something I’d love to tackle myself,” he says. Not only is he thrilled to finally be working with the play, but Smith says he’s equally as excited to be directing LateNight @ the Footlight’s season opener.
“It was an honor that they gave that to me,” Smith says. “Being the first one in this space for this season added that much more pressure to make sure that it’s a really great piece for everyone to see.”
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