Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 14, 2012
So, the thing about Larry Kunofsky's new play Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary is that, when it's all over, we can't be sure whether Marci's boyfriend is for real or not. But that's not important: Marci—the sad, level-headed, quirky protagonist of this piece—has learned both how to be together and how to be alone after touring some of her so-called friends' mostly catastrophic and endlessly superficial relationships. This is a play, finally, about living with yourself rather than living with someone else; I think Marci is as identifiable and accessible a heroine as we're likely to see this season.
Let me backtrack: Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary takes place on a Saturday night at a party, or more accurately a string of parties—different but the same—all around New York City. At the first one, Marci arrives, uninvited and not dressed-up, here not to do whatever it is that people do at these parties but in search, as she puts it, of some "intel." She hasn't seen her boyfriend for a while, and since he does not have a cell phone and she does not know his address (he's "off the grid," she explains), she needs to find a guy named ToddWhatsHisName who will, she hopes, direct him to one of his friends who is an ex-girlfriend of Marci's boyfriend.
Trouble is, no one seems to believe Marci's story. Marci's conviction is unshakable, though, as she journeys from party to party to party in search of said "intel." Marci samples the relationship lifestyles of a number of her archetypal compatriots, and finds herself speaking the truth about them. Unexpected developments develop.
I read the script after seeing the production, which is not something I generally do. But I have to say that my feeling was that Meg Sturiano's staging didn't really show the play in the strongest light, and now that I've read it I think I was right about that. Sturiano adds lots of noise and clutter to a piece that should feel, as the playwright suggests in an author's note, like "one very long run-on sentence." Sturiano has double- and triple-cast just about all of her dozen actors, with those who portray six of the seven principal characters also playing anonymous party-goers (which is very confusing); she's also encouraged them to amp up the humor in a very broad, sitcom-ish way, constantly pulling focus from Marci and interrupting the flow of Marci's journey. Sturiano has also chosen to punctuate two key moments with piped-in songs, and this for me was the single most damaging decision she made: rather than allowing her audience to experience the emotional weight of Kunofsky's script each in our own way, she's imposed emotions on us in the hackneyed style of second-rate movies or TV dramas.
Darcy Fowler nevertheless shines as Marci, making her a character to root for almost from the first moment we meet her; good work is also done by Zach Evenson as a hapless young man named Carl; Jordan Mahome as one of the party hosts, a fellow named Paul Paul; and Maya Lawson as Marci's friend Denise. To her great credit, Sturiano has chosen a company of actors who are as diverse as New York City itself, which I really appreciated.
But I left the play wanting to see another director's take on it, and having read it I hope another production—or many more productions—will be in this play's future. Kunofsky has some touching, heartfelt stuff to say about the paradox of being alone in the urban crowd, and I look forward to the wistful truths of Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary being really heard.