Arts & Life, Fine & Performing Arts

CSULB theatre presents ‘Good Boys and True’

Brandon is a good kid, captain of his high school football team and destined for an Ivy League university — until he’s caught in the middle of a sex scandal in 1989.

The enthralling play “Good Boys and True” presented by Cal State Long Beach Theater Arts opened April 27 at the University Theater. Playwright is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the play is directed by Hugh O’Gorman, head of acting at CSULB.

“Good Boys and True” is a two-hour play, performed by just six actors, and touches on issues of race, poverty, sexuality and abuse.

Brandon Hardy, played by Wes Mathison, is a white, wealthy high school senior with his whole life planned out for him. As the family’s second generation attending St. Joe’s School for Boys, he is expected to attend an Ivy League and follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a doctor.

Things are going as planned until a sex tape comes out featuring a male that looks uncannily like Brandon. Not only does it look like Brandon, but it looks like Brandon with a black girl, which can’t be right. To make matters worse, it looks like he’s forcing himself onto the girl. You can’t tell if she’s resisting though, because her face is shoved into the mattress.

St. Joe’s football coach Russell Shea, played by Thomas Trudgeon, tries to keep the tape out of the eyes of the administration and give Brandon’s mother, Elizabeth Hardy, played by April Sigman Marx, time to process the tape.

Elizabeth wants to believe that her son would never do such a thing, he has everything he could possibly want, but a part of her fears that Brandon is destined to turn out abusive, like his father. She believes in the common trope that good people can’t do bad things, so her good boy is not capable of raping someone and releasing the tape of his assault.

Brandon’s mother confides in her sister, Maddy Emerson, who is played by Jennifer Richardson. Maddy is a public school teacher who tries to comfort her sister, but is painfully aware of what goes on behind the ivory pillars of private schools. She has more concern for the young black girl in the video who appears to be taken advantage of. In fact, she seems to be the only person in the play who is more concerned with this girl’s life and well-being rather than Brandon’s Ivy League dream being threatened.

With Brandon in the middle of a sex scandal, his best friend Justin Simmons, played by Shane Monaghan, is also caught in the crossfire. It quickly becomes apparent that Justin and Brandon have feelings for each other, but choose to hide it. Brandon more so feels the need to hide it, partially because he doesn’t know what he wants, partially because he has a girlfriend.

The pressure of hiding his sexuality, along with his parent’s expectations and now a sex scandal, make Brandon more violent than usual. He lashes out multiple times at his loved ones, once shoving Justin and throwing a chair across the room after being questioned by his mother.

“Good Boys and True” make it a point to remind the audience how fresh our society’s tolerance for homosexuality is. Brandon denies who he is, even to himself, and even calls Justin a “f****t” to remove the attention from himself.

The girl from the tape, Cheryl Moody, played by Kayla Manuel, gets tracked down by Brandon’s mother at the mall where she works. When Elizabeth asks Cheryl if she was forced to do anything she didn’t want to, she replies: “It was hard to tell, it all happened so quickly.”

Elizabeth asks Cheryl if there’s anything she can do to help; unaware of the gap her privilege creates between them. The young girl explains that she already has to work twice as hard to try get to the level of comfort where Brandon and his family are, that the sex tape will only make things harder for her because no college wants to give scholarships to a “whore.”

She tells Elizabeth that she can subsidize her college tuition if she wants to help, or give her an allowance so she can take at least one day off from work. She tells Elizabeth “there’s a lot you can do to help me, but you won’t. You just want to think that you’re the type of person who would.”

The character dynamic between Cheryl and Elizabeth reminds the audience that although segregation no longer existed in the ‘80s, social and economic gaps still made life that much harder for minority groups.

It’s also apparent how little progress we as a society have made in regards to rape culture. When Brandon claims that the tape “isn’t a big deal, it already happened,” it’s meant to echo the common defenses you hear in the news with every rape scandal that happens on a college campus.

While dealing with these heavy issues, the characters still manage to keep a light sense of humor throughout the play. The actors are able to perform a heart wrenching scene that ends with screaming and tears (from both actors and audience, myself included) and a scene with multiple jokes making the audience laugh aloud, all within the span of five minutes.

“Good Boys and True” will be playing at the University Theater through May 13 with showings on Tuesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. with additional showings Saturdays at 2 p.m.

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