It’s never quite clear what kind of screwed-up individual the title character is in Julia Jordan’s new play, “Boy, ” the depressingly glum drama currently receiving its Midwest premiere by Circle Theatre of Forest Park. Is he a promising young writer left mentally damaged following a botched suicide attempt? Is he a clinically depressed literary savant manipulating the sympathies of those who befriend him? It’s hard to tell from John Wehrman’s hard-working yet unfocused performance, and his Boy at times comes across as a fragile yet flakey genius and at others—especially when he’s dragging one foot and cradling his palsy-inflected arm close to his chest—like a rabid Richard III floundering around the tiny Circle stage in search of a good speech. That speech never comes, unfortunately, and the rest of Jordan’s elliptical writing—conveying either obscure plot points or ponderous metaphors such as her characters’ search for beginnings, middles and ends—sounds like homage to early Shepard but lacks that author’s ability to create resonant images or interesting rhythms. Ironically, there are several references to “Buried Child” in the second act, but all that this succeeds in doing is reminding you of what an inferior play “Boy” really is. The evening might have acquitted itself through a second narrative strand involving the Boy’s friend, Mick, and his ex-girlfriend, Sara, whom Mick abandoned three years earlier after discovering she was pregnant and with whom he now seeks to reconnect. As Sara, Lindsay Nance gives an understated performance yet lacks some necessary chemistry with Steven Camara’s Mick, who lacks one iota of charm. This makes it all the more difficult to swallow Jordan’s “happy ending” for Sara. Indeed, that a successful, professional young woman (a pathologist, no less), who underwent an abortion after her boyfriend left her in pursuit of a non-existent acting career, would take back her unemployed loser boyfriend after three years for no good reason strains credulity and bludgeons the play’s delicate attempts to investigate the quirky tragedies of human behavior. Saddled with a bad script, director Chris Arnold’s presence is nowhere to be found and the strong performances he’s usually able to elicit from character-study angst dramas never comes. Disappointing. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At Circle Theatre, 7300 W Madison, Forest Park, (708)771-0700. This production is now closed.