Boy My Greatness

(Artwork credit: Katie Homer-Drummond)

Leo Lion, Rae Bell, Benny Rendell and Eli Wassertzug. (Photo credit: Rafal Pustelny)

By: Darryl Reilly

Pageantry, entrancing stage pictures, furious fight scenes and enchanting dance sequences, all on a bare stage festooned with a few hanging rectangular scenic panels, are gloriously on display in playwright Zoe Senese-Grossberg’s absorbing self-directed highly theatrical fantasia, Boy My Greatness; it vividly depicts the lives of six Shakespearean boy players who perform female roles. Set at the Globe Theatre in 1606, as the plague approaches, Ms. Senese-Grossberg’s imaginative scenario explores personal and cultural conflicts during an era when women were not permitted to perform onstage. Poverty stricken young males could obtain gainful employment and status in the theater until they aged out of believably appearing as female characters, some continued acting in male roles, others went on to other trades. Senese-Grossberg’s grand dialogue evokes the period, and the compelling plot revolves around rehearsals for Twelfth Night and Antony and Cleopatra. The show is performed by a magnetic gender diverse ensemble possessed of classical acting skills.

Sophie Falvey. (Photo credit: Rafal Pustelny)

The charismatic Juli Worth veers from histrionic to desolate as the over the hill 22-year-old star of the troupe. Dynamic Sophie Falvey plays a fiery Puritan preacher who was a former boy player and now tries to save their wicked souls. The animated Leo Lion beautifully portrays the stalwart master of the group; he was a boy player himself who discourages a new member from meeting a nobleman in private as sex will be expected. That novice is played by the charming Rae Bell with vivacity. Gallant Benny Rendell and feisty Eli Wassertzug are touching as a boy player couple whose relationship is dissolving as two men could not realistically be openly together outside of the theater at that time.

Benny Rendell and Eli Wassertzug. (Photo credit: Rafal Pustelny)

Senese-Grossberg’s precise Stanley Kubrick Barry Lyndon-style picturesque staging emphasizes spectacle while conveying emotion; actors exit and enter through the auditorium and a scene is thrillingly played from above the audience near the technical booth. Lighting designer Alex Nemfakos lavishly bathes the stage with a variety of hues achieving a vintage sheen. Katie Homer-Drummond’s witty paneled scenic design has stylized imagery of maps, a jester and mythological figures, and their detailed makeup design visualizes the characters faces with authenticity. Props designer Maximillian Romanov’s artful elements and wardrobe designer Leo O’Hear’s gorgeous collection of period-style garments accentuate the production’s scope. Musicians Wyatt Camery and Justin Pelofsky’s playing contribute to the success of several rousing dance numbers.

(Photo credit: Rafal Pustelny)

Boy My Greatness is presented by The Firebird Project, the company produces “innovative original productions of classic plays and stages new works that examine and deconstruct the popular storytelling canon.” Those aims are winningly achieved by this heartfelt extravaganza.

Boy My Greatness (through March 16, 2024)
The Firebird Project
Hudson Guild Theater, 441 West 26th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission


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