I was thoroughly impressed when I saw Boys Don’t Cry at this years Fringe. While not a perfect show, it offered some extremely solid entertainment and a maturity well beyond the years of the shows creator Matteo Lewis.
The music especially is quite well done. Much like my other love of Fringe, it leans heavily on a musicality similar to other shows like Next to Normal and Dear Evan Hansen. The music is very reminiscent of these other shows and it has a very similar sense of pathos to the entire production. With that being said, musically the show works beautifully and is effortlessly carried by a talented and multifaceted cast. While there is one weak link in terms of performance, it is easily forgiven when the actor is much younger than the others, and is showing a great deal of enthusiasm for the role.
Now this play is not perfect, but there is far more here to like than there is to criticize. I commend the production on its theme and implementation of it. The focus on toxic masculinity, creativity, self discovery and even the working class and domestic abuse are all noble messages, even if their handling isn’t perfect.
There is definitely a sense of messiness to some of the show. There are a few character logic leaps that fail to land, and some of the topics that require a bit more finesse are either very heavy handed or almost invisible. The ending, after such a heavy show, ends just a bit too easily for the conflict, but outside of the restrictions of the finge clock, could benefit from a bit more time and space to develop.
This was a show unjustly picked on by Now Toronto, and I wholeheartedly agree that it was not a piece that should have been skipped. If you missed out on it I hope you get to see it when Lewis inevitably opens it on a bigger and better stage.
Now in regards to what I hope to see differently when it does return:
Giving the mother some more positive traits. Yes she loves her sons, but she comes across very one dimensional. Giving her more nuance, and perhaps a bit more of a warm heart so we can see her love would go a long way. Same with the brother who seems to have the opposite problem of being far too tough. I want to see not just how they’re hard on each other, but maybe a taste of that there is some kind of love there, or at least something about them to endear them more firmly to the audience.
(Also, omg huge shoutout to Sarah McMillan-Stahmer who crushed not just one vocally demanding and complex mother part in a new Canadian musical, but TWO! Respect! MVP of Fringe easy)
The girlfriend character is wonderful with some of the best songs in the piece. But her confrontation with the brother character at the end comes off a bit too easily. There is much more that can be mined there, and I hope they get the chance to expand upon it so it reads a bit less like “girl character completely changes arrogant brothers mind in one musical number”. It’s a dynamic I want to see played with more as it is fertile ground for conflict. Maybe a confrontation piece earlier to establish the conflict could lend itself well to the piece.
The young boy character has a massive challenge. He’s up against players much older and more experienced than him and it shows. However he shows wonderful skill and talent and I have no doubt will grow to be quite exceptional the more he gets on stage.
Finally in regards to the direction, I agree with other reviews that the style is very park and bark. Now there is nothing wrong with this in small doses, but every single number ends up feeling very still and undynamic. Not every play needs complete choreo, but there were a lot of numbers here that could benefit from just a small amount of it. Each number doesn’t need to be elaborate, but movement can enhance it in a major way! When every number feels still a bit of visual diversity can go a long way to making theatrical magic.
In all, Matteo should be very proud of the work he did on this show, and I expect it to have a bright future going forwards. It was a true treat of the festival and I am so happy to got to share in it.