Murder, mayhem and misogyny...passion, perfidy and pathos...fantasy, fraud and pheromones. And that's just in the first act.of City Theatre Company's "Bat Boy: The Musical"!!!
This group has worked off of miniscule budgets that tumbled off the fiscal cliff after the first show decades ago. Yet they continue to scale what would be insurmountable precipices for most acting companies.
This merry band of mavericks are the theatrical equivalent to those adrenalin junkies who scale mountains with neither crampons nor belaying ropes. The only equipment they bring is chalk dust and nerve.
Of the words gracing the first line of this missive, perhaps only "Pheromone" is foreign. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual. Pivotal to this frankensteinian plot is the claim that the party of the first part, "the secreting individual" - (a common household bat) impacted the party of the second part – (the fertile mother Meredith, played by Dana Michael), resulting in the not-so-blessed event of Bat Boy (Brendan Sheehan).
Director Michael Gray consistently uses every square inch of the black box of Opera Delaware Studios, this time even foraging for air space.
Bat Boy first appears peering over a crib, the identifiable ears a dead giveaway. He learns to speak from his adoptive family, yearns for acceptance and tries to join society, only to face hatred and violence from a town that fears him and jealous rage from his foster father.
The book deals with serious themes (such as hypocrisy, acceptance, forgiveness, racism, revenge and scapegoating), but often punctures the most serious moments with slapstick, surrealism, camp-horror and irony.
The show also contains religious themes. Act II begins with a religious revival tent meeting featuring a faith healer (Steven Weatherman channeling his most vociferous Elmer Gantry). It's not so ironic that the town is named Hope Falls.
No other theatre company in Delaware could do justice to this stirring and evocative show. The songs are great; the singing equals the songs. Sheehan has a beautiful arching voice and we pity him as his plaintive calls for love and understanding go unanswered.
Many of the actors have duel roles. Adam Wahlberg plays Daisy, a woman – or is she a transvestite? (Director Gray is known for swapping genders with the same alacrity as our Congressmen trade insults).
Wahlburg's show stopper is as Pan. Hold it. I didn't tell you there was a satyr in the story? Well, you'll just have to see it. And, you should.
This production is not for the faint of heart. In Act II we recreate the birth of Bat Boy. I was not the only audience member thunderstruck. Do horrifying and hysterical belong in the same sentence?
The show also features a great backstage band conducted by Joe Trainor.
"Bat Boy: The Musical" runs through Dec. 15. For tickets or more information see www.City-Theatre.org