by David Lally · October 7, 2014
Roderick Hill, Erik Heger | Jeremy Daniel
Based on the true story originally published in 2004 and later made famous on This American Life, Stalking the Bogeyman follows renowned journalist David Holthouse’s secret pursuit of justice for a crime hidden for 25 years. This new play explores the dangers of vengeance, the power of forgiveness, and the strength of family. Even if you know the story going in, each second of this new play by Markus Potter is an exciting revelation.
Forgoing the popular back and forth flashbacks and time shifts that a lot of modern plays do (which also can be frenetic) Bogeyman is a straightforward linear retelling of David’s journey from a 7-year old who was raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance to his tortured adulthood. At the time of his rape (and David in a later scene very emphatically states that he was not molested, he was raped, as molestation just implies touching), the teenager threatened to kill him if he did not comply with his wishes. After he was finished, David was threatened with violence if he did not keep quiet. Twenty five years later, David can no longer remain silent, when he learns that the man who destroyed his childhood has moved into his new neighborhood. With key ties to the leader of an Arizona gang and other illicit connections, David meticulously plans the murder of the Bogeyman.
It is a meaty, fast-paced 85 minutes that keeps you on the edge of your seat and several times throughout the performance you could hear a pin drop in the theater. This is brave storytelling of a delicate subject and something you don’t see often in the theatrical world these days. Film and television have taken this type of storytelling over and it’s a shame because seeing it in the theatre is a much more real and visceral experience. Even when David is actively stalking his rapist with every intention of killing him, you can’t help but root for him, yet feel scared for him that one false move and he could end up being the victim once again. It is also a very powerful story, one filled with loathing of one-self to full acceptance (as David later states) that this rape has molded and shaped him into the person he is today.
I don’t usually read my program before the show so it didn’t strike me how good this cast was until I realized at the curtain call that I thought several actors were missing. There were ten characters but only five people in the cast. That is a testament to this cast that I completely forgot at times that yes, the same actress playing the therapist is the actress playing the Bogeyman’s mother.
Led by the riveting Roderick Hill as David, I didn’t realize until I read my program that I had seen him several years ago in Martin Casella’s The Irish Curse at the Soho Playhouse. He’s a totally engaging actor and that’s important because his story is steering the ship and he is rarely off stage during the play. With excellent support from Erik Heger as the Bogeyman, who at first is very charming and then completely menacing, all of David’s and the Bogeyman’s scenes after the rape make your heart stop. But Mr. Heger, for all the bravado his character has, shows an incredibly sensitive and remorseful side in his final confrontation with David. You wonder how this will turn out as your sympathy shifts from David to the Bogeyman but are aware that David is armed. John Herrera has a ball playing several roles from the Bogeyman’s Dad to a baseball coach and a Latino gang leader. Murphy Guyer and Kate Levy as David’s parents are completely convincing. Ms. Levy’s phone call to the Bogeyman’s parents will set the hair on your arms on end. Roxanne Hart is terrific in her role as both the Bogeyman’s mother and the therapist David sees. These actors are all at the top of their game and there is not one disingenuous performance.
The set is one of the best sets I have seen in any production. Designed by David Goldstein, I will not do it justice by describing it but suffice it to say that there are very definite playing spaces with the walls crowded with bric-a-brac and tchotchkes. In different moments in the play, the lighting focuses on certain parts of the set so objects that escape your notice in earlier scenes are then highlighted and brought to the forefront. The most chilling is when David is stalking his prey and his maps and photos magically appear on the walls at different angles on the stage. And credit Cory Pattak with the spot-on effective lighting design. Sound design and original music by Erik T. Lawson is appropriate without being invasive.
Days later and after seeing two other plays, my mind keeps going back to Stalking The Bogeyman. It will definitely be a play I will think about for a long time.