One-person shows can be problematic fare. Will it be too overindulgent? Boring? Or will the experience enrapture us through an actor’s intimate and personal journey? Happily, The Good Boy, playing at the Abington Theatre Company through May 19th, falls into the latter category.
On its simplest terms, The Good Boy is about a young lad growing up with his siblings in a household of deaf parents. But the real thrust of the production, written and performed by Michael Bonnabel, is the affirmation of family ties and bonds. No matter what happens during the show’s roughly two decades timeframe, the family is first and foremost.
Being part of a home with a mother and father that could not communicate with the outside world made the playwright’s circumstances different then his peers. His yarns and vignettes open up a window most of us have never experienced. How many six year olds have been dragged to a banker’s office to translate the finer points of a mortgage? What little boy has been enlisted to describe a mother’s physical symptoms to a physician? Yet, the basic adolescent pains, fears, triumphs, and heartaches that Bonnabel endured growing up is something that can resonate with all audience members.
The stories of this biographical show, which also consists of self-written songs and a considerable amount of signing, are structured within a strong narrative thread, which provides a satisfying opening, middle, and end to the production. The actor unfolds his many stories gradually, drawing us ever so close to his world so when the unthinkable happens there is an audible gasp within the small, Off-Broadway theater.
Bonnabel, the actor, brings a warm and genuinely caring nature to his story. Now mature, and more worldly, we feel his hurt from so long ago as well as his celebrations. At some points during the 80 minute, intermission-less show, his dialogue spills out almost uncontrollably, tripping over a word or a phrase, but we forgo these slips as we await a story’s end or the beginning of another.
Director Darin Anthony, working with a staging space the size of a small New York City hotel room, keeps Bonnabel moving, almost prowling, around the tiny performance area. The strength of the two collaborators, however, focuses more on the nuances associated with the performer’s speech patterns. A pause here. A rat-a-tat delivery there. The intent, which succeeds triumphantly, culminates in a heartbreaking, but also uplifting, conclusion that has audience and performer in tears.
The Good Boy, playing at the Abington Theatre Company’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre through Sunday, May 19th.