‘Good Boys and True’ runs at UCF Black Box Theatre
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 15:10
Boys will be boys.
It’s a phrase that has been tossed around for decades, sometimes to try to explain the bad behavior of young males or, more often, to excuse it. But what happens when that bad behavior catches up with that boy? Who takes responsibility for it?
These are some of the many questions posed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Good Boys and True, which opens tonight at the UCF Black Box Theatre. The play is a prep school drama set in the late 1980s that deals with themes of personal responsibility, sexual violence, homosexuality and parental influence. Brandon Hardy is a charming and attractive young man who thrives in his world of privilege, until the consequences of that world threaten to destroy him thanks to a sex scandal that deeply affects all of those he’s closest to – his mother, his aunt and his best friend Justin, especially.
Mark Brotherton, an associate professor for the UCF theatre department and the director of the show, said the play came to his attention when two of his students in an acting class brought it in for scene work. Having never heard of the play before, Brotherton asked to see a copy of it and was immediately drawn in by the subject matter.
“It dealt with multiple things. It dealt with homosexuality, women or a woman’s victimization, misguided parental guidance and, of course, Sandusky just happened at Penn State. I found it fascinating, going, ‘Maybe these things have happened and we’ve never learned.’ I also loved how the playwright pulled off the friendship between two boys,” Brotherton said.
The two boys are the characters of Brandon Hardy and Justin Simmons, played by sophomore acting major Jesse Hinton and sophomore musical theatre major Kyle Wilkinson, respectively. Hinton is every bit the handsome charmer as Brandon, cheekily swaggering across the stage, every sentence brimming with self-assured wit until his world comes crashing down around him. He and Wilkinson have a very natural rapport, something that the Black Box’s intimate setting complements.
“The first thing I wanted to do was establish a relationship with Brandon,” Wilkinson said. “We’re best friends in the show, so [Hinton and I] have become really close outside of the show as well.”
This is Wilkinson’s first time performing in a UCF Theatre show. He said one of his main challenges as an actor was finding the opportunity for development in a supporting character.
“I’m not in every scene, so I was trying to develop a real arc for this character.”
Hinton, who is no stranger to the UCF stage, having performed in shows such as Bury The Dead and No Sex Please, We’re British, said that his biggest challenge was expressing the dark side of Brandon’s character.
“He gets really dark at points, and I guess everybody has dark sides in them, but I guess that was the biggest challenge. Mark just told me to dive into it completely and don’t be afraid of it and completely embrace it. Arrogance, also – my character’s really cocky and I have to be a little more cocky than I am,” Hinton said.
Both young actors said they truly enjoyed working with Brotherton as their director.
“It’s all about seeking answers,” Hinton said of Brotherton’s directing style. “I’ve had him for three classes, and he’s one of my best friends. If you’re struggling with something he’ll give you time to work with it. He’s trusting and that trust helps you do better on stage.”
“He’s really into organic and real acting," Wilkinson said. "He trusts his actors a lot.”
Though the play at first seems male-centric in its approach, it’s also a thoughtful commentary on how women are treated and considered in a patriarchal society, something highlighted even more by the setting of an all-boys Jesuit prep school. Kate Ingram, a professor with the UCF theatre department, plays Brandon’s mother Elizabeth Hardy, who struggles with doing what is right for her son and what is right as a person.
“I think he wrote it pretty truthfully,” Ingram said of the playwright. “I am a mother. I’m playing a mother who is a surgeon with a career and a child who she had later in life, an only child. She dotes on him. They have a life of privilege. I think she’s lulled herself into thinking everything is hunky-dory and rosy. When she does believe what happened, things start to break apart. To me, the second act is where I take a stand. But I do think it’s hard for a mother to not first side with her child.”
More than anything, she said, the show is about the conflict between personal or moral responsibility and a sense of entitlement.
“Mark likes to talk about privilege, that it’s partially about entitlement,” Ingram said. “I’m not gonna indict the entire younger generation, but there’s a lot of behavior that people get away with. No one is accountable; if they can get away with it, they will.”