Boyz of All Nationz: The Rise and Fall of a Multi-Ethnic Boy Band

By Prince Gomolvilas

Music by Prince Gomolvilas

and Kevin Kirby

Directed by Edu. Bernardino

At Theater on the Run to Sept. 28

Many local theater companies offer simultaneous translation via headsets, but even more offer a different, annoying brand of interpretation, at least on press night: audience members with chronic, high-decibel laughs. On Saturday night at Boyz of All Nationz: The Rise and Fall of a Multi-Ethnic Boy Band, the folks behind me were convulsed with shrieks for what seemed like the first 10 minutes, even during set changes. Maybe they were shills, or maybe they were truly taken with Prince Gomolvilas’ amusing concept: a post-NKOTB, pre-‘N Sync boy band with casting straight outta Benetton. Although Boyz looks at first like a one-joke story—Plan 9, minus spaceships, plus a Casio and padded crotches—Gomolvilas (whose last script for Asian Stories in America was The Theory of Everything) has created a Behind the Music-style play that’s packed with witty lines and surprisingly fleshed-out characters. No mere pinups, his Boyz aren’t without talents, brains, or baggage. Ray-Ray (Mayo Best) maintains his cool by reading Buddhism for Black People and scorns bandmate Brick (Steve Lee) as “an Asian guy imitating a white guy imitating a black guy.” Bob (Jonathan Rockett) tries to erase his family’s wealth and whiteness by smoking lots of weed. The fourth Boy, Jace (Chris Galindo), the cross of Hispanic Catholicism around his neck, complains primly about his bandmates’ blasphemy and frets about whether he’s the “ugly one.” Jace’s opening scene in Act 2 turns much of Act 1 upside down—this begins the “and Fall” portion of our program—but Gomolvilas manages a tentative, if somewhat contrived, happy ending, as befits this light entertainment. The Boyz—particularly Rockett as a flashy character and Best as a far subtler one—are charmingly convincing as teen idols, even when executing goofy dance moves like the three-limbs-waving, one-limb-backward hop that suggests the impending appearance of Godzilla’s foot stage right. Jennifer Ayn Knight, in a trio of nonmusical supporting roles, is note-perfect. And Josef Villanasco, as middle-aged ex-monkey trainer Jerry, the mastermind behind the Boyz, gets a nice scene in Act 1 in which we see him, alone, watching his proteges in their “world debut” at the Pentagon City Mall food court. Scenes like this one, in which Jerry bobs and flails like a boxer battling his hopes and fears, reveal both the humor and the pathos inherent in Gomolvilas’ story. But director Edu. Bernardino needs to find a way to bring more to this production: more focus from some of the actors, more finesse in set changes (the between-scene music clunks on and off like a boom box with a faulty plug), and especially more volume from the singers (individual mikes on the band members would help). The songs, including “Put Your Eggs in My Basket” and “Oh Let Me Lay You Down (I Wanna Lick You Up),” are perfectly awful (and I mean that as a compliment)—and if the lyrics can be heard, they’ll earn plenty of legitimate laughter. —Pamela Murray Winters