If the play’s title leads you to believe you’ll be watching a group of young teenage guys play video games in their parents’ basement, Boys in the Basement, you’re wrong. Boys in the Basement at the Noyes Arts Center (927 Noyes St., Evanston, Illinois) features an array of characters that make you either grab hold of your seat in anger or throw your head back in laughter. The main boys in this basement were a group of old divorcees who pass their time drinking beers and contemplating the disastrous effects of their failed marriages.
The play opens with a hopeless and depressed man looking for a new home. His unstable financial standings left him with a worn-down apartment with many fellow divorced residents who spend their time in the basement. Nicknamed “Rookie” (Brendan Butkus), the new guy learns to adapt to the attitudes of these internally destroyed men who were both delightful — when discussing past lovers — and quite arrogant — when betting on the continuous downfall of Rookie’s marriage. If you have ever seen That ‘70s Show and witnessed Red’s cruel but hilarious nature, you would love the character Player (Peter Nerad) who has the same striking reflection of arrogance and humor. While adjusting to these people by listening to their stories and gaining insight on what it’s like to live without a family, Rookie attempts to deal with the life of a divorcee.
What can a divorced man do, however, if he doesn’t want to be left alone and waste his life in a small, dingy apartment basement? Unfortunately, this play reveals the results of a divorce in a man’s life. For most men, the children are taken away from them and a portion of the husband’s paycheck and material goods are gone as well. Although these men have built tough exteriors that reflect settled-for contentment, they actually have broken hearts and damaged perspectives on life.
Boys in the Basement displayed hilarious remarks, melancholic events, adorable young love moments and unexpected plot twists. The everyday lives of these divorcees are portrayed as plain and mundane, but this, I believe, was the show’s intention. Some men are forced to accept a dismal life while others are stuck in self-denial, and all situations remain unresolved as time passes. The boys in this basement make you realize that divorce is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can endure, whether you are the divorcee or if you have undergone the troubling split between two parents. The most important lesson of the play is to treasure all familial ties because, as these men have demonstrated, a lonely life results in a broken soul.
Boys in the Basement runs through Nov. 15 at the Noyes Arts Center in Evanston, Illinois. Tickets are $20 and are available for purchase here.