Originally published on Flavorpill.
“This time last year I started plotting to kill a man.” Roderick Hill, portraying investigative journalist David Holthouse, opens Stalking the Bogeyman with this admission, and it’s clear from the get-go that this is going to be an intense evening of theater. Based on the real story of Holthouse confronting the man who raped him as a child, the stage version has been adapted and directed by Markus Potter, who first encountered the story (as many of us did) in a 2011 episode of This American Life. Potter’s production never shies away from darkness, and in the intimacy of New World Stages’ 199-seat Stage 5 theater, terrible acts of violence and vulnerability are close enough to leave the audience shaken.
After a brief but chilling introduction, Hill shifts to portraying Holthouse as a seven-year-old boy in 1978, entirely charming and without an ounce of camp. We meet his parents, played by Kate Levy and Murphy Guyer, who have just moved the family to Alaska, and their friendly neighbors (John Herrera and Roxanne Hart), whose seventeen-year-old son (Erik Heger) has quickly adopted little David as a little brother.
We see their strange friendship unspool up to the point of violation, and then follow David as he grows up with the effects of this trauma, which he’s decided he must keep a secret to protect his parents. Hill’s ability to portray David at several ages and various levels of emotional well-being is uncanny, and he provides a deeply compelling center to the production.
The structure of the story results in something of a dual climax – one for the parents, one for their now-adult children. Without spoiling the ending, I can say that Kate Levy’s big moment left me breathless. Hill and Heger’s confrontation which followed was a bit milder in comparison, but that is perhaps part of the point of the story.
Stalking the Bogeyman confronts big ideas about guilt, responsibility, and closure. And unlike previous versions of this story in radio and print publications, the intimacy of being in the same room as the storytellers – and therefore as the avatar for the perpetrator – can be uncomfortably powerful. But important theater does more than entertain, and some stories, like this one, are worth sacrificing a couple hours of comfort in order to hear them.
Featured photo: Roderick Hill as David Holthouse, photo credit Jeremy Daniel Photography