Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Giving Nothing Away: 'How a Boy Falls' Has Plenty of Twists but Lacks Gravity -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

How a Boy Falls
a World Premiere play by Steven Dietz
directed by Halena Kays
Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL
Thru February 29

I love thrillers.

And mysteries.

Hitchcock films.

Page-turning novels by the likes of Harlan Coben—my favorite contemporary author, at least in terms of reading for entertainment.

Whodunit TV series that typically solve cases within a given episode.

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, the longest-running play in the world (in London), currently being well-done by Chicago’s Court Theatre.

Photo credit on all: Michael Brosilow
So I did enjoy How a Boy Falls, a twisty play by Stephen Dietz now in a world premiere production
by Northlight Theatre.

Directed by Halena Kays and clocking in at 75 minutes, it moves fast, offers surprises and--in involving a domestic mystery--feels akin to some of Coben’s books.

But though I’ve read Coben’s entire oeuvre, devouring each novel in under a week, and would recommend his work to anyone seeking a fun read—while also extolling his usual inclusion of astute societal commentary and a fair amount of humor—I wouldn’t call what he does great literature.

In part because there isn’t much staying power to what I’ve read. Nothing much to ponder, take away, come back to, discuss, etc.

And this pretty much describes How a Boy Falls, whose plotline I won’t much describe.

Paul (Tim Decker) and Miranda (Michelle Duffy) are husband and wife, living in a posh coastline home. Chelle (Cassidy Slaughter-Mason) is their newly hired nanny. Sam (Sean Parris) and Mitch (Travis A. Knight) are a couple of dudes who notice Chelle in a coffee shop.

The play’s title gives a hint of what happens, but there are a number of sharp turns.

For what it is—which are almost always somewhat damning words—How a Boy Falls is well-written, well-crafted, well-staged and well-acted.

But there’s nothing really monumental about it, and many of the scenarios that unspool feel more theatrically contrived than realistically genuine.

I see tons of theater—presently about 10 pieces in a month's span—and it was nice that this was something a bit different.

Despite the foreboding title, light even.

Yet ultimately, rather forgettable.

A suspense thriller, but not a killer thriller.

It won’t take up too much of your time, and if the price is right, Northlight is always comfortable with easy parking.

A World Premiere is nothing to sneeze at, live theater is a joy unto itself, Dietz's script is at times rather and the performances and production values are strong.

But whether you should see How a Boy Falls, or just how much you'll like it, is a mystery I'm not able to readily solve.

Nor even much guess at. 

No comments: