”This time last year I plotted to kill a man,” reliable narrator David Holthouse (Roderick Hill) informs us at the outset of Stalking the Bogeyman—a one-act rendering of a 2011 This American Life segment that recounted a journalist’s plan to take out the man who viciously raped him in a basement when he was seven years old. (After the attack, his assailant nervously suggests a game of Atari and some mindless chatter.)
Anyone who’s heard Holthouse’s story before, either on Ira Glass’s radio series or in any of the various print sources in which it appears, knows that this is a gut-wrenching, shivery tale of robbed innocence, told in simple, direct terms without sensationalized prose. So why does this new production at New World Stages seem so lacking in comparison?
It’s not that the production has spared any visuals: David Goldstein’s set is a impressive panorama of sepia walls, shelves and stairs. It’s aided nicely by Cory Pattak’s expert lighting, with an accent on harsh spot-following to suggest isolation. And many of the performers seize key moments, with Hill a sympathetic focal point; Murphy Guyer and Kate Levy are especially touching as his largely uninformed parents. But Erik Heger, as Holthouse’s older, callous attacker, is far too frenetic and overcaffeinated in the early scenes—you almost feel like you’re watching Stifler in American Pie, for God’s sake. The ensuing drama dulls in impact; as ghastly as he is, he’s not a fully-realized individual. (Heger is, however, much better in the later scenes.)
Even so, opening up the story seems to limit its impact, especially during wan scenes between Holthouse and his psychiatrist that add virtually nothing to the story but running time. (Perhaps a monologue might have been more advantageous?) For a play called Stalking the Bogeyman, the viewer ends up surprisingly un-spooked. B-