by Ran Xia
BOTTOM LINE: Katie Cappiello’s brutally honest play examines the effect of rape culture on teenagers from the male perspective.
Now That We’re Men is an anatomy of five boys’ inner worlds. The play shifts between almost cinéma vérité-styled snapshots and direct monologues that reveal the deepest, most personal secrets of each character. We meet the boys at some point before prom, as each is restless to get on with the rite of passage that is becoming a man. Although we are introduced to these five friends individually, and each has different issues and things they struggle with, they all have one thing that's constantly on their minds: sex.
Evan (Alphonso Jones) is the clarinetist who gets belittled because he isn't interested in sports. He speaks about an embarrassing locker room incident regarding the size of his genitals, and his insecurity about fitting in with the image of an “ideal” man. Marcus (Caleb Grandoit) is the charming alpha male of the group, who prepares a grand gesture for his prom date. His concept of being a man, however, is unavoidably influenced by the relationship between his parents, especially the way his father treats his mother. Nick (Fred Hechinger) is the cinephile, whose playlist includes both artistic masterpieces such as Godfather II and Annie Hall, as well as peculiar genres of pornography. Derek (Rayshawn Richardson) is the athletic, popular one who takes pride in having lost his virginity at 14. However, his vulnerability leaks out when he reveals the true account of this experience. And finally there is Andrew (Jordan Eliot), a member of the drama club, who is constantly taunted by being called a “faggot.”
It is not difficult to grow fond of these vivid characters, to develop hope for their futures, to laugh with them in their joyous moments, and to sympathize with their obstacles. We observe how the boys express confusion over the definition of sexual assault, and how they lack awareness about what constitutes consent. However it still comes as a shock when we discover one of the boys has raped his girlfriend, who was unconscious from alcohol at the time. Although he is completely unaware of the severity his actions, the play ends as his friends lower their eyes in expectation of the consequences to follow. And as the lights come up a talkback begins, part of the utterly necessary conversation about our pervasive rape culture and how it affects the lives of today’s teenagers.
Now That We’re Men is, to say the least, a brilliantly written play. Playwright/director Katie Cappiello has the incomparable ability to capture the essence of her characters—teenage boys on the cusp of adulthood—with stunning accuracy. The hyper-realistic language, unique to teenagers, makes the play instantly relatable and therefore doubly impactful. It also helps that the actors are captivating; their connection has a palpable intensity that results in their effortlessly genuine performances.
Cappiello's play poignantly stresses that sexual assault can be committed by “decent guys." It brings the reality of male teenage life under a microscope to reveal the problems many of us ignore. Now That We’re Men might be among the most important dramatic pieces for young audiences, for it creates a safe platform to generate important conversations on the subjects of sexual assault and rape culture. It is also a wake-up call for adults to listen and become facilitators of such conversations. As cast member Fred Hechinger shared during the talkback, people often associate rape with dark alleys, while a great deal of rape cases are not, in fact, committed by strangers. In the wake of Brock Turner and other similar cases, it is important to keep the conversation going, so that we prevent such tragedies from happening.
(Now That We're Men plays at the Maroney Theatre at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, through October 29, 2016. The running time is 1 hour with a 30-minute talkback. Performances are Thursdays and Saturdays at 7. Tickets are $30 and are available at eventbrite.com or call 212-817-7915. For more information visit KatieCappiello.com.)
Now That We're Men is written and directed by Katie Cappiello. Technical Director is Daniel Melnick. Lighting Design and Stage Manager is Lauren Bremen. Assistant Director and Associate Producer is Charlotte Arnoux.
The cast is Caleb Grandoit, Rayshawn Richardson, Alphonso Jones, Fred Hechinger, and Jordan Eliot.
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