REVIEW: Carey Mulligan in “Girls & Boys”
Audible continues its partnership with Off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre by presenting London’s Royal Court Theatre production of “Girls & Boys”, a one-woman play by Dennis Kelly (“Matilda the Musical”) starring Carey Mulligan (“Skylight”, “The Seagull”) through July 22nd (and available as an audiobook). Ms. Mulligan helms the stage commandingly through the bloated hour and 45 minute run time of this play, alternating between “in-one” monologues directly to the audience and scenes interacting with her unseen children in the pale blue monochrome of an apartment kitchen and living room hidden behind a scrim (set by Es Devlin), but ultimately her performance and Lyndsey Turner’s smart direction are not enough to overcome Mr. Kelly’s plodding script and labored storytelling device, both of which make a dramatically muddled and unsatisfying impact.
Ms. Mulligan’s character, simply named “Woman”, tells stories of meeting her husband, interviewing for her job, first indications of spousal violence, a suspected affair, and more I won’t disclose for fear of spoiling the ending, which is gruesome and a tad gratuitous. The scenes in between these monologues—it is revealed—are memories, edited by our grief-struck narrator, the monochrome set brilliantly lit with flashes of vivid color and video projection by Oliver Fenwick and Luke Halls, respectively, offering fleeting specificity precisely the way memories do; this clever bit of stagecraft in service to the storytelling was a highlight of an otherwise tedious play, the first hour of which displays no arc and the last 45 minutes of which sharply descend into a tonally different endeavor with an important message about gender dynamics that is swallowed whole by the grisly shock of a true crime storyline.
One-person show highlights from last season included Audible’s “Harry Clarke” with Billy Crudup and John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons”—both of which called for their leading man, as was the case, to play multiple characters. Here, Woman is just Woman; I wish Ms. Mulligan was given more to do, and a better fashioned story to tell.
Bottom Line: Carey Mulligan gives a commanding performance in “Girls & Boys”, but the play is bloated, plodding, and dramatically unsatisfying. Skip it or listen to the audiobook instead.
“Girls & Boys”
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
New York, NY 10014
Running Time: one hour, 45 minutes (no intermission)
Opening Night: June 27, 2018
Final Performance: July 22, 2018