Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys. Sam Brooks. 6 – 15 Feb. The Basement Theatre car park.
As the title would suggest, Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys (written and directed by Sam Brooks) revolves around a car and its passengers, namely Kyle (our protagonist) and his slew of unattainable crushes (the ‘mostly straight boys’). Kyle is stuck on his learner’s license and the boys who will only ever give him a ride home. The action takes place in The Basement Theatre car park (the Wellington season will see Te Papa’s waterfront walkway put to good use), with the audience clustered around the car, eagerly hanging onto every last witticism and cringe-worthy confession.
Brooks’ script moves at 100 kph, gliding effortlessly between the lanes of heart-wrenching drama and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, never losing any poignancy in the journey. The decision to centre the action on the dialogue between driver and passenger gives us insight into Kyle’s world of falling for the unattainable in a way that will strike a universal chord among audiences, queer or not.
At an hour long with no set changes, the duo of Dan Veint and Calum Gittins more than rises to the challenge (playing Kyle and the ‘mostly straight boys’, respectively). More than just bringing their characters to life, the two succeed in creating a world into which the audience can’t help but be sucked (which is no mean feat when you’ve a glass windscreen between you and your audience).
I was not the only one audibly gasping and biting my nails when Veint confessed to yet another straight guy that he’d fallen for him. Despite doing and saying all the wrong things, we can’t help but continue to root for Team Kyle, perhaps due to Veint’s ability to guide the audience through Kyle’s story with the grace and charm that allows his less-than-reputable passenger seat behaviour humanise him. Particularly notable are his direct addresses, which move from casual conversation to gut-wrenching abstraction before your own eyes (and before you realise it).
Gittins task is remarkably different – he plays all of the ‘mostly straight boys’ and does a stellar job. All he has to work with is a quick costume change but not once do you feel like you are watching the same actor and it’s a testament to Gittins’ technique that he was able to so (apparently) effortlessly keep us interested. His performances never slip into caricature, rather, they appear as snapshots into the lives of these young men, unified by the presence of our awkward friend Kyle.
The technical detailing by Amber Molloy is flawless. With dialogue amplified powerfully and unobtrusively, and the addition of a few lamps on the dash, the action is communicated, but feels neither ‘staged’ nor obstructed by the car, complementing Brooks’ writing and direction perfectly.
When not confined by four black walls, Brooks’ writing reaches exciting new heights. You can catch Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys as part of The Wellington Fringe Festival (Feb 6-11, 7pm) and The Auckland Pride Festival (Feb 13-15, 7.30 pm). I thoroughly recommend that you do.
Image credit: Sam Brooks