At the age of seven, David Holthouse was raped by his teenage neighbor. Twenty-five years later, he decided to kill the man – both to avenge the crime, and to prevent any more from occurring.
Holthouse, a journalist, gave a first-person account of this true story in 2004 for the newspaper where he was working at the time, Westword. In 2011, it was turned into a segment on the radio program This American Life. And now, it’s a play Off-Broadway at New World Stages.
Markus Potter heard David Holthouse’s This American Life podcast on his car radio and was so overwhelmed he had to pull his car over. As both adapter and director, Potter has created a production that is impeccable in its stagecraft – paradoxically, too impeccable.
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David Goldstein’s set is elaborately detailed, flexible and imposing; lighting designer Cory Pattak and sound designer and composer Erik T. Lawson provide clarity and enhance the drama for events that take place in Anchorage, Phoenix and Denver, from 1978 to 2004.
“Stalking The Bogeyman” has a cast of six fine actors, experienced Broadway veterans, portraying the two antagonists and their parents. Roderick Hill persuasively plays David Holthouse as both a young child and a troubled adult. John Herrera is especially impressive in his various roles as the Bogeyman’s father, a would-be molesting little league baseball coach, and the gang leader Holthouse interviewed for an article to whom he returns to buy a gun. Erik Heger manages to turn the Bogeyman into a human being.
That last fact is a clue to the problem. For all the theatrical talent that goes into this production, “Stalking The Bogeyman” would have worked better as a solo show. Part of what makes Holthouse’s accounts so riveting is not just the unfolding of the story – we want to know what happens next – but his honesty in telling this true story, his bravery in revealing his own complicated feelings, and also the shifting of his perceptions. It makes complete sense that David would turn his rapist into “the bogeyman,” who haunted his sleeping and waking hours until their dramatic confrontation. But it’s something else again for the character to be listed as “The Bogeyman” in the program. He doesn’t look like the bogeyman; on stage, he’s just a guy – a handsome young actor. By removing the single (and singular) interior perspective, by making everything literal and external, “Stalking the Bogeyman” removes some of the horror, and perhaps some of the insight as well.
Stalking The Bogeyman
New World Stages 5 (340 West 50th Street)
Adapted and directed by Markus Potter, original story by David Holthouse. Additional writing by Shane Zeigler, Shane Stokes , Santino Fontana.
Scenic design by David Goldstein, costume design by Tristan Raines, lighting design by Cory Pattak, sound design and original music by Erik T. Lawson
Cast: Roderick Hill (David Holthouse), Eric Heger (The Bogeyman), Kate Levy (Nancy Holthouse), Murphy Guyer (Robert Holthouse, Emmit), John Herrera (Russ Crawford, Payaso, Coach Billy), Roxanne Hart (Carol Crawford, Dr. Sarah Leavitt)
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission