Just who exactly is Carey Mulligan talking to in the new one-woman drama “Girls & Boys”?
Written by Dennis Kelly (who is best known as the book writer of the musical “Matilda”), Mulligan (playing an unnamed young English woman) alternates between narrating her character’s story to the audience (in the style of a corporate presentation or college lecture, with a sense of humor thrown in) and conversing with her two children, either begging them to behave or playing along in their make-believe adventures.
Before the end of the 100-minute play, a shocking surprise will come along about how and why Mulligan’s character is retelling and reliving her past — and why her children are never seen.
“Girls & Boys,” which recently premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre, can currently be experienced live at Off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre or as an Audible audiobook performed by Mulligan, which can be purchased online at far less expense.
The Off-Broadway run is also being produced by Audible, which recently took over the theater and has already produced the one-man drama “Harry Clarke” with Billy Crudup. It is an unusual and intriguing arrangement that is breathing new life into a West Village venue that has been underutilized in recent years.
In “Girls & Boys,” Mulligan relives the circumstances in which she met her husband, had children and jump-started a career in documentary film development. But as she attains professional success, her husband’s business collapses, which shakes him up psychologically and starts him on a destructive path.
As suggested by the title, “Girls & Boys” explores contemporary gender relations — as well as the capacity to commit violence. It is heavy-handed in both how it expresses its viewpoints and how it graphically describes gruesome details.
Nevertheless, the play (sharply directed by Lyndsey Turner, Broadway revival of “Machinal”) makes for frequently absorbing and provocative storytelling, built around a fully realized, committed performance by Mulligan.