One of the underappreciated pop-rock albums of the early ‘90s, Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” has been rightfully winning new fans in the 10 years since Todd Almond’s play-with-music, also called “Girlfriend,” premiered at Berkeley Rep. The slow-moving, practically giddy story about two high school grads, Mike and Will, falling into love in an intolerant 1993 Nebraska is considerably enlivened by songs from Sweet’s album.
Diversionary Theatre’s San Diego premiere of “Girlfriend” directed by Stephen Brotebeck rocks to the sound of a dynamic live band populated by Melanie Medina (guitar), Christian Reeves (bass), Nobuko Kemmotsu (drums) and keyboardist/musical director Krysten Hafso-Koppman. As the more conflicted Mike and the immediately smitten Will, Michael Louis Cusimano and Shaun Tuazon respectively may not look like high school graduates, but each in his own way projects the insecurities of that age and also the clumsy tentativeness with desire made all the more daunting by residing in the narrow-minded American Heartland. Yet Sweet’s songs and the house band are more involving than anything in Almond’s sentimental script.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 9/25/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.