We are at an ideal time to be making a social commentary on the male perspective.
That’s right – the male perspective, the very perspective that has idealized femininity since kingdom come, be it via bound feet in Asia or metal rods and string in the era of Victorian Barbie and Scarlett O’Hara. As a female who has been victim to the wonders of idealization, I can tell you YES, this is something we should be talking about — mostly because women are not cupcake sex kittens in heels and push-up bras granting wishes with their tampons. And when we fail to meet these bloated expectations, we are deemed “naïve,” “harpies” or — to quote Cole Theatre’s The Bachelors — “jizz mops”.
The Bachelors nobly attempts to deliver this desperately needed social commentary in 75 minutes – and almost manages to do it well. For at least the first half of the show, the plot of The Bachelors is mostly efficient, neat and has a couple of pretty solid performances. However, the plot ultimately falls apart when the term “dark comedy” is abused, leaving us with a show that would have benefited from holding on to the early charm of their leading men rather than abandoning it for a loose message and unnecessary dramatics.
The play opens up with Laurie (Shane Kenyon), a mid-30s appropriate businessman coming home from an appropriate Vegas business trip to his similarly aged roommate Kevlar (Nicholas Bailey), who is found wasted on the floor in what deceptively looks like a dorm room crack den. Kevlar apparently has just found out that his longtime girlfriend Danielle was diagnosed with cancer – and now wants to have sex with every guy not named “Kevlar”. Essentially, Danielle wants to have a little fun before she’s “yellow” and has no hair instead of wasting her time with an implied deadbeat boyfriend. Not so satisfied with his now former girlfriend, Kevlar drunkenly mopes around while third roommate Henry (Boyd Harris) is in and out of what may be the best excuse to have a 1960s soundtrack play throughout a modern-day show – a 1960s-themed house party happening right next door. Each man is a Banana Republic-clad, Gen X figure of what one should not be when reaching the age of 35, and thus each man finds himself stuck in his own bachelorhood to the discomfort of all.
If you think the premise sounds solid, albeit a bit situational, you’d be right. Hell, it even includes the best rendition of the Beach Boys “Help Me Rhonda” I may ever see in my lifetime. (Just trust me on this one.) And despite a slightly American Pie-esque performance by Bailey that was borderline cartoonish, the jokes and the relationships were relatively strong – until about 35 minutes in. That’s when the playwright Caroline V. McGraw decided to get a bit ambitious and totally steer away from any previously developed plot line to create a “message” show. What’s a “message” show, you ask? Well, in The Bachelors, it’s when a lighthearted show morphs into a “serious” one weighted down by long monologues, tears and inappropriately dark overtones. And I understand what McGraw may have initially been aiming for: a show rooted in realism with a lightness derived from its “bro” humor that later transitions into a cautionary tale of consequence. It is also true that the show eventually does deliver something resembling a message, sure, but it’s one that ends up never translating. Ever. This can be attributed to McGraw’s decision to add unnecessary plot twists along with director Erica Weiss’s not-so-swift transition from screwball comedy to firework show. By the play’s end, there was a literal light at the end of the neighboring house party, an unsubtle touch to an already wishy-washy production. So diluted was the overall theme at this point that I’m still not sure what the major dramatic question was that the production was trying to ask, answer or achieve.
In layman’s terms: You will definitely be asking yourself questions once you leave the theater, just not the ones the playwright or the director will want you to be asking. (i.e. Wait, so what happened?)
As a reviewer of this show, I can’t, in good conscience, answer that question myself, mostly because I don’t know. All I know is that The Bachelors revolves around three men who seriously can’t differentiate between their fantasy woman and an actual woman. Every female mentioned in this production was a piece of fiction – and not just because they never physically appear on the stage. Despite what these characters may think, women are not dying martyrs waiting for an engagement ring, or girls bouncing around at the park with “skin like sponge cake” or Vegas strippers waiting for love in their neon blue glitter thongs. Women are humans who happen to not give a crap if some 30-something sweeps them off their feet with their 401Ks and respectable jobs. Women are humans — and maybe that was the point McGraw and Weiss were trying to convey, but again, I’m not too sure. Mind you, I’m not trying to say a female presence was necessary on stage. Rather, a solid decision as to what the play should be about was needed but never solidified. Ultimately, my analysis of the play is merely an assumption on a theme and may not, in fact, be the actual theme, which is an assumption an audience member never should have to make. And unlike the men in The Bachelors who do eventually realize the uncertainty of their own singleness, the production itself merely finds itself uncertain, period.
The Bachelors is running at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, until April 10. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm with Sunday matinees at 2:30pm. (Note: See the website for additional performance times.) Tickets range from $10 to $25 and may be purchased online.