Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s 2008 play, originally titled “Good Boys and True,” has been updated in light of heightened public awareness and discourse on the subject of masculine privilege, wealth privilege, and lack of consequences for the entitled class who attend high profile prep schools and colleges, buoyed partially by their legacy of having parents who attended the same schools, and locked in by their wealth.
By Carol Edger Germain
Carolyn Cantor’s directing and Dane Laffrey’s smoothly shifting set keep the dialogue and action forging ahead quickly as the future, and the past, of the characters run head-on into dramatic consequences for young men who have never had the experience of accountability or being required to follow the same rules as ordinary folk (think Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the “affluenza” teen).
Brandon Hardy (played smoothly and convincingly by Ben Ahlers), his physician mother, Elizabeth (played smartly and forcefully by Betsy Brandt), and Coach Russell Shea (a smooth James Carpinello, with an ace up his sleeve) are the triad from which all the threads and intertwining webs are spun. Brandon has never had a twinge of doubt in his mind that the universe would ever bestow anything but first place and perennial sunshine on his perfect life. Of course he will go to his father’s prep school, be captain of the football team, have all the girls (as well as a guy, his friend Justin, played endearingly by Dylan Arnold) in love with him, and get into Dartmouth. Such confidence leads him to exploit the situations and people around him, but it’s clear that in his mind it’s all part of the spoils of his charmed life, he really does not get that there are traits like morality and respect that are severely lacking in the way he operates.
All seems to be falling into place until Coach finds a videotape (the play is set in 1988) of a young man having a sexual encounter with a young woman who seems to be unaware of the camera and who, although she appears to be participating voluntarily, is not in control of the situation. The tape does not show his face, but Coach believes it is Brandon. Coach offers Elizabeth an opportunity to “handle” the situation before it goes further and before her husband returns from his altruistic mission abroad. However, it soon becomes clear that the situation has passed the point of no return, as the girl on the tape (played by Brett Cooper, whose short appearances are effectively played to draw a sharp contrast in character between her and Brandon) appears and eventually has her own consequences to face which force Brandon to face his. Elizabeth finally scratches the surface of Brandon’s clueless psyche, a withdrawal letter from Dartmouth shouts out its wake-up call, and mother and son disconnect from the cycle and relocate and restart.
Although there may have been too many specific situations brought into the play, too many connected threads (some of the coincidences and connections could be trimmed), the dialogue was riveting and it was not a major factor that it was a bit lengthy and a tiny bit convoluted. The acting throughout is solid, there’s good chemistry among the players, and the topics are ones that should stay in the public mind until at least some of the youth who live their lives without responsibility and consequences reclaim (or begin operating from) a sense of respect for others and simple morality.