The Boogyman Thumbs A-1-A
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
August 15, 2010
The writers of The Boogyman Thumbs A-1-A are the Glass Bandits Theater Company; they are also the players and producers, and they represent here what's best about FringeNYC. The subject of the play is a question: how does one reconcile subjective and objective reality? Pretty big question! The collaborators in this examination use a bare stage, an overhead projector, a large back wall projection screen, and an amazing group of musicians, Baltimore's Indie Folk quintet, MAN&DOG.
Taking one extreme, the protagonist, John Stoakes, played by Carter Hudson, begins at the overhead projector, and with an instructor's pointer, he directs our attention to the wall, where a much enlarged title page appears: "The Killer's Assistant: Subjectivity vs. Objectivity." He wants us to think about this question in terms of a journalist's perspective. He's a journalism major.
Probably the most jolting moment comes next, with the next gel he slides onto the projector. There were gasps. For the balance of the play—through scenes in which everyone participates, including the musicians, through the narrative thesis defense, and through some intermingling of the two—we find out that John Stoakes is a gay man, has had a traumatic experience, is attracted to violent men, and has gut-wrenching anguish over it. There are the facts of the violence of these men, and then there are the emotions felt for these men by someone who loves them.
The play is an earnest effort, but still searching for its best focus and tuning. The company has passion and energy, they're smart and inventive. There were scenes where they were on the verge of a powerful comic/tragic moment, that sense of utter pain and despair, and an equal urge to laugh bitterly at the black humor, but they fell short; a bit frustrating. Maybe they aren't yet aware of what they have.
I wanted them to explore more deeply that paradox of loving humans who are so wounded and hardened that they are truly dangerous. The journalist reports the facts, the essayist would look at the subjectivity. In the end here, the question remains unanswered, it is the journalist's view.
The production values are sharp and minimal: Robert Lilly has lit the play well, and Mia Bernovich and James Ortiz contributed their skills at costuming and makeup and illustrations respectively. The MAN&DOG group—Jason Desiderio on banjo, Theodora Prunoske on violin, Grant Schulte on guitar, and Sean Mercer's voice—is excellent and well employed throughout.
The directing is energetic, fun, and smart, if youthfully green, thanks to Eddie Prunoske. I doubt he's lived long enough to know the depth and complexity of that intensely painful side of humanity. Maybe the play needs aging, like a good wine. I'd go back to get that satisfaction.