The Boys Upstairs
nytheatre.com review by Brendan Hill
August 18, 2009
Jason Mitchell's The Boys Upstairs promises a breezy look into the lives of three young, gay men living in the Here and Now of Manhattan, and delivers exactly that in the form a sitcom-y romp through the ups and downs of their variously tangled love lives.
Josh and Seth are roommates who used to date in college and while Seth has found himself stable, if not happy, in a steady relationship with an older man, Josh can only seem to pine for their new downstairs neighbor Eric who is assuredly, definitively, tragically straight. Probably.
These facts mainly serve as a vehicle for the jokes and dizzying pop culture references crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder and delivered breathlessly by a cast clearly enjoying the material. The play shines in moments of physical comedy, carried by a raucous energy even in the handful of moments that tease at seriousness. Kristen-Alexzander Griffin in particular goes well over over the top as Ashley, a libidinous Southern belle who arrives to stay on Josh's sleeper-sofa and serves as a catalyst for all the trouble to come.
If there is something off-putting about the superficial world the characters seem to inhabit—drinking cocktails all day in their posh midtown apartment, trading quips as they order delivery on their parents' dime—it is at least appropriate, then, that everyone outside of their apartment building (billed as "all of their boyfriends, dates, and tricks") is played by the same versatile actor, David A. Rudd. How pained the roommates get, just trying to work up the energy to go out shopping, makes you wonder if they'd leave their apartment at all if it weren't for the heady allure of fame available in the streets.
This inward-looking view of city life reinforces the overarching idea of the piece as "a story of friendships between men," playfully suggesting that your friends, in the end, will always be there to drink with you, even if you'd rather they not.
Ultimately, it is a play that knows its audience—loves them, in fact—and if the sold out show was any indication, the feeling is mutual.