Anna Holloway review: 'Girlfriend' at Lyric a date night play
For one more weekend, the regional premiere of “Girlfriend” is playing at Lyric in the Plaza. A lovely, light romance that plays in a compact 90 minutes, “Girlfriend” is directed by Matthew Gardiner and stars Jimmy Mavrikes and Ian Marcontell. The show takes its name from an album by Matthew Sweet, a successful singer-songwriter whose 1991 album Girlfriend was the inspiration for this delightful confection of a play, written by Todd Almond.
Will and Mike are both celebrating the end of high school, and their distant acquaintance turns into a summer romance. Mavrikes and Marcontell delivered strong performances, giving us the romantic nerdy guy and the seemingly self-assured athlete on the cusp of independence and maturity.
Mavrikes played Will with a deft touch, letting us in to just the right level of awkwardness and confusion as Will crushes heavily on Mike from a safe distance, then moves both closer and deeper with a sweet and disarming social inelegance.
Marcontell offered us a standard athletic highschooler yet avoided all the stereotypes while acknowledging all the privilege—and occasional insensitivity—to be expected from the star quarterback, even when the star is a nice guy. Marcontell’s Mike is college bound and is as certainly uncertain of his future as any young athlete.
“Girlfriend” was directed with a subtlety of color and clarity of brushstroke by Matthew Gardiner, who also directed the critically acclaimed production at Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C. Mavrikes was also in that production: Marcontell had to fit himself into an established production process while staking his own claim to the character of Mike, a feat he accomplishes with ease and polish.
The unit set, designed by Misha Kachman, and the lighting by Colin K. Bills, allowed for easy and clear movement from scene to scene. Costume designer Frank Labovitz keeps the colors and changes distinctive for each character while never intruding into the story.
Music director and band leader Britt Bonney did the heretofore impossible: She played and produced a rock score that was true to the form and supportive of the story without overpowering the text of the songs. Every word was articulated with grace—not so pronounced as to feel forced, and not so colloquial as to be indecipherable — and the band never once obscured the lyrics. The band, behind a large Plexiglas wall, also provided a backdrop for the action that underscored how important music was to these two characters, and put the band into the show as a character itself. The four women in the band — Bonney on keyboard, Taylor Yancey on bass, Susanna Leonard on drums, and Bat-Or Kalo on guitar — played with drive and style, and they were exactly as loud as they needed to be.
The final weekend of “Girlfriend” at Lyric on the Plaza begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 405-524-9312 or go to LyricTheatreOKC.org. “Girlfriend” plays with no intermission.