RIDING IN CARS WITH Mostly Straight BOYS
02/12/2016 - 06/12/2016
28/11/2016 - 01/12/2016
“I love you.
In a gay way.
Just so we’re clear.
I love you as a friend.
But also in a gay way.
I love you both ways.”
Kyle has crushes on straight guys. That’s his thing. But when one of his crushes confides in him, he has to confront the lifestyle that he’s created for himself.
Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys is an award-winning play by Sam Brooks, which premiered at the New Zealand Fringe Festival in 2014 to rave reviews, has since been published by Playmarket, and is performed entirely in a car!
Using a simple rig of speakers and microphones, Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys is performed to an audience who sit and stand around a car while the action unfolds in front of them; it’s a unique, lo-fi and immersive theatrical experience like no other.
This tour of Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys continues in Whangarei after beginning a tour in Auckland, and before touring to Palmerston North and Wellington. The tour lasts over a month, over thirty shows and ten different venues.
Sam Brooks is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been done across New Zealand. His significant works include Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys, Queen and Wine Lips. He was named Auckland’s Most Exciting Playwright in 2014, and was nominated for a Chapman Tripp in the same year.
Geordie Holibar was a core cast member on Shortland Street for three years, playing Phoenix Raynor, the son of Chris Warner. Since then he has graduated from The Actor’s Program and starred in Wine Lips and The 21st Narcissus.
Tim Earl graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2015, and has since starred in two ATC productions, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Studio 77 Amphitheatre, Victoria University
28 Nov – 1 Dec
Red Gates Te Papa
2 Dec – 6 Dec
Geordie Holibar and
Theatre , Outdoor ,
One self seen to grow
Review by Shannon Friday 01st Dec 2016
Sam Brooks’ Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys is your typical coming-of-age story. Kyle is young, gay, and insecure. He also can’t drive. As he bums rides from multiple guys – some gay, some straight, some friends, some hoping to be more – Kyle has to figure out what is keeping him from taking the wheel.
The current production touring New Zealand, directed by Brooks, invites its audience along for the ride; the show is staged in and around an old silver hatchback. While Kyle sometimes talks directly to the audience, mostly we’re peering in from outside the car, voyeurs looking in on Kyle’s journey of self-discovery.
Kyle reminds me of Little Britain’s ‘the only gay in the village’, if that character went beyond the basic joke. Since most of the gay characters in my formative media were either coded (Lion King, anyone?) or likable but one-dimensional (Will & Grace), the idea that Kyle is so self-absorbed and self-loathing is refreshing. He’s gay, but not just gay; Kyle’s also young, narcissistic, and deeply insecure.
Tim Earl’s performance nails Kyle’s emotional swings, from petulant to horny to scared to confident and back again. Though he struggles in the first few addresses with the audience – his eyes skim over us like items on the grocery store shelf – I find myself drawn to him for his physical choices. Kyle is a character that could easily tip over into stereotype, and Earl plays Kyle with considerable size. When he pouts against the car window, for example, he’s like a three-year-old child: shoulders hunched and lower lip stuck out far enough for a crow to land on it. Yet these moments are balanced with smaller reactions, such as his tiny moment of completely freezing when his long-time crush drops a bombshell on him.
Georgie Holibar plays a range of other men in Kyle’s life. Those characters are played as relatively similar; rather than marked by strong changes in gesture, physicality or voice, the different characters are mostly indicated by a series of t-shirt changes. It’s a choice that puts the focus right back on Kyle’s character.
This is the part of the production that leaves me a bit cold. Because there’s not much difference between secondary characters, when huge events happen to them, the events feel less like milestones for those characters and more like developments for Kyle.
And Brooks’ writing tells us these guys are also going through some pretty big changes, such as Trent’s growing dissatisfaction with Kyle’s distance or Shane’s decision to leave university early. But because Brooks’ directing doesn’t much differentiate between characters, the different relationships to Kyle feel very same-samey. And because we see how Kyle reacts in realtime, the focus is relentlessly on how he reacts to these developments. He is always driving the change between characters.
As such, my involvement with the play was totally dependent on how willing I am to invest in Kyle’s growth from spoiled man-child to responsible human. And it is a credit to Brooks’ writing and all the performances that I am pretty invested; I am genuinely frustrated with Kyle’s self-sabotage and relived when he starts to figure it out with a little help from his friends. I just wish those friends had also got a little help to let their stories shine through, too.
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