The return of Florida Studio Theatre’s Stage III series is a welcome one for those who prefer their shows edgy or dark or provocative (use whichever code word you like as a substitute for “may offend or disturb some viewers”).
The first of the Stage III productions this season, Stalking the Bogeyman, takes place in the small Bowne’s Lab Theatre, usually the home of FST’s improv company. The intimacy of the room makes it impossible to turn away from the stage or the story that unfolds there, which is made more haunting because it’s true.
Journalist David Holthouse and Markus Potter adapted this work for the theater. It is Holthouse’s often harrowing recounting of how he was raped by a teenager when he himself was only 7, and kept the secret for more than 20 long years out of both fear (his assailant threatens him, of course) and concern for his parents’ feelings—especially as the teen is the son of a couple they are friends with.
We know this almost from the outset, as Holthouse (David Perez-Ribada) informs us how he has spent months planning to kill the rapist (the term child molester, we soon see, is too mild for what really happens here) who has now grown up, married and moved to Denver, where Holthouse lives. Thanks to contacts and sources he’s made in his career, Holthouse has the gun, he has (if needed) the drugs to fuel his rage, and he certainly has the motivation. While Stalking the Bogeyman is never too graphic visually, the full horror of what happens to young David in a basement stocked with toys and games is revealed both in words and in the emotions the boy (still played by Perez-Ribada) displays.
Michael Stewart Allen is fully as awful as a predator like this, who at first seems a good guy to his victim, would be in real life, capable of switching gears when his parents (Todd Licea and Katherine Michelle Tanner) or David’s (Kate Hampton, Andy Prosky) are close by. But by the end of this taut 80-minute-long production, effectively directed by Jason Cannon, we have also seen yet another side of the man, and we ask ourselves the question David asks: Can the bogeyman be forgiven?
Perez-Ribada and Allen are both strong enough in their changing roles to make us believe in the possibility of that; they’re lent fitting support by their fellow cast members, with Licea in another role as a Chicano gang member and Tanner as a stripper-turned-drug dealer who is the only friend David can confide in turning in particularly memorable performances.
The production simple and straightforward, as befits the play and the setting, but it packs a punch. Stalking the Bogeyman continues through Jan. 20; for tickets call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.