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Review Mon Apr 19 2010

The House Theatre's Girls vs. Boys

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For every time you've rolled your eyes at a self-indulgent teenager, The House Theatre of Chicago's latest endeavor, Girls vs. Boys, reminds you to remember a time when the emotional impact of first loves, first times, and broken hearts were enough to just kill you. It also reminds you how downright obnoxious teenagers can be.

This rock and roll musical, featuring book and lyrics by Chris Matthews, Jake Minton and Nathan Allen and music by Kevin O'Donnell, explodes on the stage with the energy of an ADHD kid in math class-- complete with competing moments of hilarity and disturbing behavior. House parties become the main stage of life for the handful of teenage characters who set the storyline with their multitude of dramas and conquests.

Each character wields a sparkling handgun-- an artistic decision that creates confusion in the first act when characters are shot and bleed rose petals in a fashion that feels a tad cliche-- we did all see American Beauty, yes? Characters are not killed by these apparent assaults however, and after several gun drawn face-offs, the glittering props become an obvious hyperbole for the destructiveness and vulnerability of youth.

The soundtrack of Girls vs. Boys is a bumpy ride of ambition for the young cast of talented singers who at times seem to stretch their skills a little too far. Luckily, the theatrics of the rock and roll antics and the passionate deliveries usually make up for the off-key moments. Ensemble members hype up the audience with their high-energy dance moves, and even though the lyrics often fly by through unintelligible wails and grungy snarls, the intended party atmosphere survives all of that.

Although Girls vs. Boys was a brave attempt to appreciate the inevitable danger of raging hormones and self-exploration that occurs at a certain age, it often stopped just short of shocking. Yes, kids do drugs and drink and have unprotected sex- but prime time television has acknowledged that at this point with shows like "Gossip Girl" and "The OC." The attempt at reaching deeper into the souls of teenagers-- yes, they do in fact have souls-- is appreciated, but with this type of teenage behavior so frequently exploited by popular culture, I wanted The House Theatre to dig a little deeper and show me more.

Girls vs. Boys will ultimately leave you feeling grateful to have made it out of high school alive. Honestly, who let us out of the house at that age? Teenagers are dangerous human beings. The House Theatre manages to celebrate this fact with an ultimately engaging experience.

Girls vs. Boys runs through May 29 at the Chopin Theatre.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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