Arts Theatre, London WC2
Opened 25 July, 1996

The title of James Edwin Parker's play considerately relieves its reviewer of having to describe the basic situation. The boys in question are graphic designer Daryl and his pick-up for the night, Peter, a philosophy graduate now working in construction; the time is 4.30 a.m., and the play unfolds in a little over an hour of real time. Daryl feels the need to make a connection through talking; Peter has an equal and opposite compulsion to avoid it by, well, engaging in other activities.

2 Boys... is a slight work which builds to an implausibly strong final resolution, but is amusing and reasonably thoughtful along the way. Its modest success in America, and no doubt similar reception here, may be in part due to the fact that Parker has set himself moderate goals and achieved them. This is not a piece of "Queer" theatre; the characters live in a specific gay culture (in New York), while their psychological dimensions speak universally. It achieves the same kind of welcoming, seductive crossover as the television adaptation of Armistead Maupin's Tales Of The City, on a smaller scale.

Lines like "Girls are OK and that; some of my best friends are girls" and the semi-playful exchange "Sex isn't everything" "Yes, it is!" help to establish both the individual and typical aspects of Daryl and Peter; the biggest laugh of the evening is one of rueful familiarity at the capacity of a simple "I love you" to act as a complete and instant sexual turn-off. In the early stages, one worries that Steven Brand may be playing Daryl just that smidgen too queenily, with Richard Laing likewise a touch heavy on Peter's butchness; however, director Julian Woolford not only keeps all exaggeration reined in, but as the duo begin to talk turkey even these defensive personae diminish.

There is really little more to say. Neither the play nor the production is, or pretends to be, momentous; but, as unremarkableness goes, it makes for an engaging hour. For once, the adjective "nice" deserves to be used without an underlying sneer.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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