Boy Gets Girl starts out pleasantly enough, when Theresa and Tony go on a normal first date. But by the second date, it gets a little weird.
"It starts with him sending her inappropriate kinds of gifts," says Andrea Garrett-Laughrey, managing director of Steel City Theatre Company.
Then it escalates. In the second act, the audience no longer sees Tony; they just see the things he does, and they watch Theresa begin to lose control over her life and identity. "It kind of makes it creepier because you are imagining, so he's not actually there," says Garrett-Laughrey.
When it premiered in 2000, Boy Gets Girl drew a largely positive review from the New York Times, which encapsulated Rebecca Gilman's work as a "carefully composed, synthetically smooth play of courtship as blood sport. ... To use the language of Hollywood advertising, the first date is only a warning."
Artistic director Jason Laughrey says the company talked about doing it several times in the past decade.
"What drew me to it initially was how it's so very current — with the whole subject matter of stalking and romantic pursuits and so forth — and I think what really drew me to it was how edgy it is," says the 35-year-old, who is also directing the play. "It's very poignant but also very, very in-your-face."
SCTC thrives on plays like Boy Gets Girl. When it formed 11 years ago, Garrett-Laughrey says, the group "wanted to perform more contemporary and more dramatic American works that weren't getting produced."
But the crowds shrank with each production, so the company started doing audience-friendly musicals in an effort to get more people in the door. "Then hopefully they would follow us into some of the harder material, and that seems to be happening," he says.
This is the first R-rated play Steel City has done in a few years, and it plans to continue with some edgier material, including the next production of the season, Cabaret. (Since the content of Boy Gets Girl is not suitable for children, SCTC is offering a "Parents' Night Out," where children 5 and older can attend free theater workshops while their parents watch the play.)
The actors — all Pueblo locals — have only had about a month to rehearse, but according to Laughrey, they're more than ready and completely tuned in emotionally. And while the production is also staged to involve theatergoers, including one of the actors going out into the audience during a scene, Laughrey feels the story won't need much help capturing a crowd.
"Basically about halfway through the first act," he says, "it kind of grabs you as an audience member and doesn't let you go until the end of the show."