Theater & Performing Arts

Girlfriend

When: April 9-May 9 2010

It's hard not to get swept up in an improbable romance between a prom king and a geek, even if the story seems as old as time. In this case, the geek is Will (Ryder Bach), a pale, thin, four-eyed lover of glam rock and wearer of Brontosaurus T-shirts. His love interest is Mike (Jason Hite), a dashing young athlete and prospective medical student, whose sports trophies and preppy outfits belie his teenage insecurities. The two characters star in Todd Almond's new musical Girlfriend, inspired by Matthew Sweet's 1991 album of the same name. It's a simple, but nonetheless agonizing story -- agonizing because Mike won't come out of the closet, so they spend the whole first act sitting together in Mike's car, watching the same drive-in movie over and over again and wondering whether or not that counts as "dating." It's a story so fraught with sexual tension that the song-and-dance numbers come as a major catharsis. The music in Girlfriend ranges from power-pop to balletic rock, with a few particularly arresting love ballads. Bach and Hite both have well-honed musical theater voices. At the Berkeley Rep premiere they're backed by an all riot-girl rock band led by guitarists Julie Wolf and Shelley Doty, with ieela Grant (of Sistas in the Pit fame) holding down drum duties. The band plays in a downstairs den, the final component of a set that puts Will's bedroom at stage left and Mike's at stage right. For Berkeley Rep, that's spare decoration -- but it fits the concept. Through May 9 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $16.50-$71. 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org

Rachel Swan

Price: $13.50 - $71

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