Teenage Love Rocks in Signature Theatre’s “Girlfriend”

by Catherine Douglas Moran

A tender romance between two male teenagers gives an authentic portrayal of young love.

(Photo Courtesy of Signature Theatre.)

A tender coming-of-age musical comes alive on stage with just two actors backed by an all-female band.

The D.C. premiere of “Girlfriend” by Todd Almond and Matthew Sweet flashes the audience back to the flannel and mixtapes of the 1990s in Signature Theatre’s intimate setting. Set in a small Nebraska town in 1993, one college-bound jock struggles with his sexuality as he grapples with anxiety and emotion about his unseen girlfriend, father and friends. Clarity emerges from the confusion through his growing relationship to aimless Will. As the two teenagers find themselves drawn to each other, they discover more about themselves along with their budding sexual desires.

The love story between Will (played by Jimmy Mavrikes) and Mike (played by Lukas James Miller) pops with the onstage chemistry. They sing. They laugh. They go watch the same drive-in movie about a nun-turned-superwoman-turned-alien over and over again. Through the long pauses sure to bring back memories of high school awkwardness and the alt-rock musical interludes of moody, soulful adolescence, their romance sizzles slowly into love.

The 90s rock music, inspired by Sweet’s 1991 album of the same name, combines the angsty emotion of “Spring Awakening” meets the raw, youthful songs from “Rent.

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” While the music for “Girlfriend” is similar to those musicals, the plot is not. “Girlfriend” brings a lighter, sanguine tone in the face of peer pressure, homophobia and parental problems.

Whereas other musicals centered around gay love have often missed the mark with over-dramatization, “Girlfriend” strikes the perfect note of depicting love and teenagehood in an authentic way.

“Girlfriend” is sure to bring back memories of first time love, high school relationships and confusion on the edge of adulthood to audiences young and old.

“Girlfriend” runs until June 10 at Signature Theatre. 

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