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THEATER REVIEW The Boys Upstairs
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2016-06-01

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Playwright: Jason Mitchell. At: Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: 800-737-0984; PrideFilmsAndPlays.com; $25-$30. Runs through: July 2

The Boys Upstairs script was first read back in 2008 and has now made its way to Chicago with a Pride Films & Plays production in 2016. There are some updates with new references, such as RuPaul's Drag Race, and newer transition music, while some things are dated, like same-sex marriage not being legal. Either more fun can be had with the time period or a complete update should be made.

The story centers around three friends in New York City and their gay misadventures together. Besties Josh and Seth live together in Hell's Kitchen when a third friend, Ashley, comes to visit the two while celebrating his birthday.

The Three's Company environment works fine in the Mary's Attic space and drinks flow both onstage and off. One prop did stick out like a sore thumb, as crudites is not the same as a bowl of fruit.

Several times during the first act on premiere night, lines were spoken like they were being read directly from the script. It did smooth out a great deal in the second act. The show has been compared to Sex and the City but the actors should continue perfecting the delivery, as Sarah Jessica Parker ( SJP ) and the gang did.

The rest of the cast should follow Gary Henderson's lead as the hippy Seth, who appears natural in his characterization and is the most likable in the group. On the other hand, Shaun Baer ( as Ashley ) doesn't have the Southern charm quite needed to channel Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls. Nelson Rodriguez wants to be SJP but instead is a poor man's Perez Hilton—until later in the show, when he finds his footing.

Other than knowing each other for a long time, it is a wonder this trio remains friends. Ashley should be up for the Worst Friend of the Year Award. He not only uses his friend's home like a brothel but continually betrays them, and creepily molests their neighbor. He needs therapy to find out why he sleeps with people that he doesn't even like night after night.

Luke Meierdiercks has the tough road of playing multiple smaller parts throughout the story. His leather-man depiction drops the ball, but then he redeems himself by stealing the show with Broadway lover Gabriel, also known as Gabie. The musical references keep coming until the audience can't help but laugh. "The twink of Glee" is worth the price of admission.

Tristien M. Winfree plays Eric the neighbor but isn't given enough to do in the script.

Shouldn't it be called The Boy Downstairs? The current title suggests it is told from Eric's perspective, which it is not.

The Boys Upstairs needs some more fine tuning before becoming the funny sitcom it so yearns to be.

While there's not much crossover appeal for our straight friends, this is a good theater choice for Pride month with a friendly gay play that gets better in the second half. Head upstairs at Mary's to see Upstairs before time runs out.


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