Girlfriend – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. Graduation from high school can put you on a path to college or to a job, or, if you’re uncertain of the future, a dilemma of which road to travel. While you may be ecstatic that the grind of high school is finally over, you may have made no plans for the long stretch that lies ahead. If your name is Will, it’s 1993 in Nebraska, and you are struggling with your sexuality. The fact that the bullying you’ve gotten may take a break could be enough to give you hope. Or maybe it’s the fact that the jock of your school, the big man on the baseball diamond, has suddenly noticed you and given you a mixed tape of Matthew Sweet’s music.

You find yourself awkwardly and tentatively interested in Mike, as the music grabs you and sends you skyward. The words of the songs speak to you and you are anxious that Mike is singing them straight to your heart.

What could this tentative new relationship signal? You know Mike has a girlfriend, a set in silver plan to be a doctor like his dad and is leaving for college at summer’s end. Do you have a chance of being part of his life or is this another fantasy destined to go wrong?

Come for a front row seat for “Girlfriend” with book by Todd Almond, featuring the on stage band plying the music and lyrics of Matthew Sweet, courtesy of the Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, April 28. While the theater is undergoing renovations, performances will be held at the Wadsworth, 600 Main Street, in Hartford.

David Merino’s Will has endured a lot of friction in his young life and doesn’t know quite what to make of it when the school’s sports hero reaches out to him for friendship. Their shared love of music, C J Pawlikowski’s Mike is a master on the guitar and sings, begins a relationship that is moving like a snail in a race somewhere, but where? Going together to a drive-in movie theater every night to witness an undercover nun, a superhero and possible alien, starts to bond the boys as they get to know each other’s plans and dreams.

Honesty trumps fear as the two reach out for each other, struggling to ignore the small town prejudices that threaten their growing love. As Matthew Sweet’s music throbs, courtesy of a five piece band on stage, the two boys stop being two lost souls as they gravitate to be one, and “speak to each other with one sweet voice.”

Initially afraid to be discovered, they can’t deny their true feelings. Rob Ruggiero directs this bittersweet journey into the heart, with musical direction by Evan Zavada.

For tickets ($20-70), call 860-527-7838 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Follow the trail of music as these two tentative souls find their path to love and acceptance.