Culver City

“Girlfriend”: A (Matthew) Sweet Romance

Songs inform feelings that connect to songs, at the Kirk Douglas.

Dramatic works set on a stage for a live audience can, at times, be encumbered by music that's gorgeous, pretty, and fitting, but bears zero contemporary connection to the audience.

And contemporary connection to music makes for powerful emotions, an experience that happened, for many people, around the time of their teens. A song heard three decades later can instantly transport them back to a first crush.

That joyful idea, and the very joyful music of sunshine-summoning pop maestro Matthew Sweet, is at the thrumming heart of "Girlfriend," which is now on at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through Sunday, Aug. 9.

You may remember "Girlfriend" as being your favorite ditty of the '90s, and the play is set in that very decade, in 1993, in Nebraska, where "(t)wo teenage boys -- one a social outcast, the other the quintessential jock -- explore a relationship during a summer of self-discovery between high school graduation and the rest of their lives."

New crushes and general awkwardness and discovering if the person who makes your heart pitter-patter is all way, way intense when you're an adolescent, as Will and Mike discover, but that aforementioned contemporary connection, via music of the time, the music on the radio, only ups the pitter-patter factor.

The show's songs, all penned by Matthew Sweet, are played live on stage by a rockin' quartet. It's not too unusual to see electric guitars in the theatre nowadays, but to pair a timely soundtrack with a very specific year, a year many in the audience will also remember, adds a further flush of feeling to the young love-laden show.

While music and lyrics are by Mr. Sweet, Todd Almond helmed the book and Les Water directs. Ryder Bach is Will and Curt Hansen is Mike. 

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Were you a teen around '93? Did you connect with an album or set of songs from a particular musician, perhaps even Mr. Sweet himself? We're not saying that sitting in the Kirk Douglas will spiral you, time machine-like, back to the time of lockers and notebooks and passed loved letters, but the music-acting-'90s combo may deliver a jolt or two to your heart center.

Or, as the kids today say, deliver a hardcore case of the feels.

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