Writer/Director: Katie Cappiello
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Imagine being a 16-year-old boy—or is it a 16-year-old man?—in the Internet Age. You and your friends have begun having sexual relationships with the young women in your peer group, but most of what you know about sex comes from your friends, and the pornography that older guys have been showing you since you were a single-digit age. You’re growing up in a culture that prizes toxic masculinity, and teaches you little to nothing about female sexuality and consent. It seems no wonder, then, that young men grow up to perpetuate rape culture.
Now That We’re Men by Katie Cappiello tackles this issue head-on. Created in collaboration with the all-male teenage cast, it isn’t a production that offers solutions. More importantly, it is a realistic presentation of what it is to be a high-school-aged male, and serves as a launching pad for a past-due cultural conversation.
When boys are told to be a man or to man up, it is rarely if ever in a healthy context. Fathers belittle sons for not standing up for themselves in the locker room, instead of offering them words of comfort and support. Friends tell each other to be a man and go have sex with someone, anyone. The opposites of man are fag, pussy, and girl.
The characters in Now That We’re Men are complex. They want to impress the girls they have crushes on, and they want to impress their friends by getting laid at prom. They tease their friend for being a virgin, until they find out that he lost his virginity at twelve years old, to his 19-year-old babysitter. A story of sexual assault is viewed instead as a moment of pride in this young man’s fragile adolescence. Another character, during his soliloquy to the audience, talks about how he got his girlfriend pregnant and then disappeared on her, ignoring text messages and phone calls. Being the product of teen pregnancy and an absent father himself, he is overwhelmed with shame for his actions, and his inability to be the man he knows he should.
It can be difficult to sympathize with the young men in this story, as they share naked pictures of their female peers, seek out the sanctioning of sexual assault, and laugh at having had sex with someone who was “shitfaced.” At other times, you want nothing more than to run down to the stage and hug them, telling them that they have the power to fix the world, to grow up well, to teach their friends the important lessons they’ve somehow managed to grasp for themselves. They, like their female peers, are victims of rape culture.
When this production is remounted, it will hopefully be seen by an audience of all ages and backgrounds, but most especially by the those who are and identify as male. It’s a conversation they need to be a part of.
Reviewed on6 March 2016