Theater Review: A PICTURE OF TWO BOYS (New Conservatory Theatre Center)

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by Chuck Louden on November 7, 2022

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theater is known for encouraging and developing new artists, actors and directors. This month the new Director in Residence Richard A. Mosqueda is debuting the World Premiere of A Picture of Two Boys by Nick Malakhow. Set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania it’s about the unlikely friendship between two high school boys. Pete is being raised by his single working class mother and trying to survive high school. Marky, who is black in the mostly white town is shy and sensitive. Both boys are considered outcasts. Marky is very bright, gets good grades and sees getting into college early as his ticket out of town. Pete knows that his prospects and opportunities are few. Therefore he’s angry at Marky, masking his jealousy and insecurity about his friend who understands his desire to leave town, thus leaving him behind. Pete verbally attacks Marky, provoking him incessantly. They argue back and forth and end up parting ways.

Over a decade later they are reunited when Marky (now Marcus) comes back to town for a family occasion but it turns out that all is not as it seems. Marcus has a dark secret that comes out when Pete suspects something and prods him, Pete and Marcus as it turns out share the same secret. The event that happened to both of them as teenagers altered the course of their childhood. They realize now that their shared secret also affected their adult lives as well as their friendship.

The single minimalist set designed by Micaela Kierko Sinclair is placed in the middle of the intimate theater, creating a theater in the round experience. The two actors are on stage for 90 minutes, convincingly playing both 17 year olds and then later men in their late 20s. Tim Garcia as Pete and Leon Jones as Markey/Marcus give phenomenal, multilayered performances as the equally tortured friends. The story — told with realistic dialogue — unfolds in such a way that by the time we all learn of the secret, it’s as much of a surprise to the audience as well as the characters.

I strongly recommend this well told story of two childhood friends who bonded as outcasts but also come together as adults to help recover from their shared adolescent trauma.

photos by Jenny Chapman Photography

A Picture of Two Boys
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness Ave @ Market
ends on November 27, 2022
for tickets, call 415.861.8972 or visit NCTC

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