Bowery B’hoys as Frat Boys

the steep theater’s history of frat boys in america.

America is tense with latent violence and resistance. The very common sense of white Americans has a tinge of helplessness in it, and deep fear of what might be if they were not common-sensical. – D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature


The best part of Steep Theater’s production of The Hollow Lands was how the actors Jonathan Edwards and especially Boyd Harris played their characters as corn-fed frat boys in the mythic, misty history-scape of America.

Their choice to play these bowery-b’hoy-turned-frontier-ruffians as displaced Alpha Beta Deltas mingled youtful entitlement with an angry, violent undercurrent. These frat boys in America were happy-go-lucky, tolerant, and open to strangeness and yet, on a dime, could turn rageful, reactionary, and close-minded. They reminded me of the boys on spring break with Bruno who will go along with anything until Sasha Baron Cohen’s character asks them to say hi to Austrian gay TV.

It was a brilliant way to link the present to the past in this epic play squeezed into a tiny performance space: fraternity brothers lost in America, alive and innocent and virile, on a death trip, haunted by guilt, and creepily intolerant and unempathetic.

They were on Whitman’s Open Road and locked in Limbaugh’s closed-circuit demagoguery all at once. They were, as D.H. Lawrence famously wrote in his Studies in Classic American Literature, trying to get away, most of all from themselves — pursuers of freedom and recoilers from its wild implications.


Jonathan Edwards and Boyd Harris (center figures) play frat boys in the misty, epic American past.

Images: Steep Theatre

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