A random, pheromone-induced hook-up at a gas station. A date arranged through a website cataloguing personal dislikes. An elderly couple debating whether cigarettes and sex can be fairly equated. Get Me a Guy , the new comic play by writer and concert pianist Israela Margalit, ranges through 80 minutes of vignettes exploring the nuances and neuroses of romantic relationships, not conceptually unlike the recent, longer, and more rapid-fire Love and Information. The discrete moments here form a loose progression from the parties and bars of youth, through jealous or baby-starved spouses and reunions of old lovers, to connections lost and (re)made in old age. The cast of seven actors, three women and four men led by Wei Yi Lin, Elizabeth Galalis, Brennan Lowey, and Paul Romano, are adept at the quick shifts required in a play that does not intend to develop their characters, variously performing and subverting stereotypes ranging from the women seeking “good husbands” to the men who think that they’re good husband material if only a woman could meet their requirements.
Get Me a Guy’s insights don’t map new territory for the most part, but its strength resides in distilling widespread cultural attitudes into the crystallizing moments that it presents. A number of the vignettes, for example, put one in mind of the dating profile checklists that regularly go viral and the debates over the misogynistic assumptions of the "nice guy." Love in this play is as likely to be unrequited as not, and even when the feeling is mutual, partners tend to perceive and experience their relationship in wildly divergent ways. Margalit exposes the self-delusions, hypocrisies, and self-sabotage underlying so many of our gendered expectations, especially on the male side and tied, no doubt, to the perception of dating and marriage as what the play calls a “male buyer's market.” Lest this sound like we are entering Edward Albee territory, however, the play maintains a light touch throughout (and would in fact be perfectly appropriate for date night, as long as your date is amenable to a few fellatio jokes).
The space at UNDER St. Marks is intimate and stripped down, a fitting backdrop for the characters who sometimes unwittingly share their actual selves while performing romantic attraction and break the fourth wall to say to the audience what they wish they could say to their dates. While the play certainly strives to be female-empowering, this is at times undercut by the female characters’ oft-revisited compulsion to reproduce; the eponymous recurring song features three attractive women seeking not a companion but someone who will “make me a mama,” and while this allows the cast to bemoan in rhyme the drama of modern dating, we are reminded that the focus is on hetero-normative and ultimately traditional relationships (two allusions to bisexuality are part of larger critiques of the dating pool, while the one direct reference to an off-stage woman's homosexuality is delivered as a joke and a test). Without ever seeming mean-spirited in its critique, the play is entertaining and funny on the whole, although some segments are played more broadly than others, which can make the tone of the work as a whole hard to pin down; the more serious turn taken in the final two scenes makes them two of the most effective and their participants the most sympathetic.
And, we got a "Get Me a Guy" button! - Leah Richards and John Ziegler
Dr. Richards is an English professor in NYC, and spends her free time raising three cats and smashing the patriarchy.
When not writing reviews, Dr. Ziegler spends a lot of his time being an Assistant Professor of English in NYC and playing guitar in a death metal band.