Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Stalking the Bogeyman
David Holthouse has written his memoir that has been adapted by Markus Potter for the stage and is 65 minutes that manage to terrify, repulse and ultimately empathize with what both victim and deviant have gone through.
The main character, named David Holthouse (Taylor Miller), of course, is first seen at curtain telling us how he was prepared to murder "the man who raped me." He's seven years old. Beginning in the early 1970's the play goes back and forth in years to let us know what happened, its aftermath, and the effects it had on all concerned.
Bogeyman (Alex Alvarez), the attacker, was a 17 year old family friend to the seven year old David. A trusted pal whom David admired and respected, He did everything we have been told that child molesters do, namely win the trust of the victim as well as show how the violator attempts to pass all the blame onto the preyed upon.
We are taken on David's physical and psychological journey from a possible murderer (revenge is sweet, is it not?) to his adulthood when he finally confronts the "Bogeyman" (his name for his rapist as a seven year old and as he continued to refer to him throughout his adulthood) and we see if he will actually follow through on his initial plan.
Director Joseph Adler has worked wonders for the majority of the production. He has a top notch cast topped by Miller and Alvarez who are sensational in the key roles. Miller is a baby-faced good looking man who never "acts" and is so believable that I could feel myself tense up each time he addressed the audience directly, not knowing what he was about to divulge. As for Alvarez, a stunningly handsome man, he (literally) towers over Miller, is twice his size which he uses for the first half of the play to play his intimidation game. When he is confronted by Miller, when both are adults, he manages the impossible : one actually feels "sympathy for the devil." While I thought that the ending was headed in a specific direction, I was wrong and, while devastating, made perfect sense. I won't ruin it, this play must be seen.
I mentioned "majority" a few paragraphs ago. The other four actors are playing mom and dad stereotypes, at best. As David's parents, Patti Gardner and David Kwiat have an easier go of it since they are the most "normal". Barbara Sloan and Bill Schwartz have a tougher time as the Bogeyman's folks. The first family visit, where Schwartz shows his patronizing, condescending attitude toward Kwiat should have been elaborated on by Holthouse. It would have added more conflict to what is, essentially, an Ozzie and Harriet scene. As for Sloan, she does her very best in a role that needs further fleshing out.
Except for the lovely Gardner, the three remaining parents play additional roles. Kwiat pulls his southern yahoo off beautifully but Schwartz has a difficult time with his chicano gang member. Ludicrously costumed with overdone "gang tears" his performance needed to be as big as his appearance, and one wished for a more realistic accent. As for Sloan, she also plays David's drug dealer, a retired stripper pole dancer who now pushes anything any addict would need. I don't fault actor or director, but she, obviously, was playing David's stand-in for his psychiatrist (he tells her everything) and I felt that the foul-mouthed woman Sloan played (very well, by the way) was a cop out. When a play is so real, the emotions so raw, a bit of realism vis a vis patient to doctor would not have been remiss.
Everything is up to Gablestage's usual technical standards. While the set, by Lyle Baskin was more than adequate, the lighting designed by Bryan Kaschube and, especially, the superb sound designed by Matt Corey were impressive.
Joe Adler mined every emotion he could from his actors and is to be commended for doing a terrific job. I realize that the issues I have with the play are the author's. It's a true story and there are always liberties taken to make a piece more interesting/ palatable/ entertaining for an audience. At a speedy 65 minutes, the play hits its mark. I haven't been bothered, emotionally, like I have today (the say after seeing it) by a play in a very long time. For this I thank Adler, Holthouse and the cast for doing what I enjoy most at the theatre: thinking. Highly, highly recommended.
Stalking the Bogeyman, through August 28th, 2016, at the Gablestage, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables. For more information, call 305-445-1119 or visit www.gablestage.org.