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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 10.19.06

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Falls to Climb

Bat Boy: The Musical rocks ACE.


Since first gracing the 1992 cover of the supermarket tabloid the Weekly World News, Bat Boy has reportedly led police on a high-speed chase, helped troops capture Saddam, bit Santa Claus, traveled into outer space and endorsed Al Gore for president in 2000.

Sheriff Reynolds (Bruce McCarthy) confronts Bat Boy (Chris McVein).

But now, the "true" story of Bat Boy can be told … in song, no less. Bat Boy: The Musical, an off-Broadway hit written by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming with music by Laurence O'Keefe, opened Friday the 13th at Actors Cabaret of Eugene (ACE).

The play begins in a subterranean cave where a trio of stoned teenagers stumbles upon a half human/half bat creature (Chris McVein) that has long been the source of legend in the West Virginia town of Hope Falls. "We are totally keeping him!" Ron Taylor (Tyler Holden) proclaims. But when his sister Ruthie (Laura Holden) offers the Bat Boy some of her Fritos and he bites her, Ron and his brother Rick (Colin Gray) knock him unconsious, put him in a burlap sack and hand him over to Sheriff Reynolds (Bruce McCarthy). Reynolds promptly delivers the creature to the home of the local veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Parker (Tony Joyner), for discreet disposal.

Meredith Parker (Erica Jean) and the Parkers' boy-crazy daughter Shelley (Rebecca Teran) find the pointy-eared Bat Boy locked in a spare animal cage. Meredith is strangely drawn to the ugly boy and tries to coax him into eating her home-cooked stew. When her husband comes home and begins the mercy killing, Meredith convinces him to spare the boy, whom she has renamed Edgar.

Edgar is a quick study. He is soon rattling off facts and figures, reciting poetry and Bible scripture and daintily sipping tea from a cup. Edgar decides to "come out" at the town's biggest social event — a tent revival featuring a charismatic preacher, the Reverend Billy Hightower (Marc Innocenti). At first, the townsfolk are naturally curious and tolerant, but when their cows start dying of a mysterious plague, Bat Boy becomes a scapegoat.

Poor Bat Boy! All he wants is for people to like him. He'll mow your lawn, teach a yoga class, join your carpool — even drive the car. Is it so wrong that he prefers cute furry forest animals to soy? He almost wins the people over, but when news comes that Ruthie has died, presumably from Bat Boy's bite, they quickly turn on him. The frightened Bat Boy flees into the forest where in the dramatic finale we learn the true tragic story of Bat Boy through a series of flashbacks narrated by Meredith and Dr. Parker.

Director Joe Zingo has assembled a highly accomplished cast, beginning with McVein. Not only does he possess a stunning voice, but with his thin body frame, pale skin and shaved head, he physically captures the creature's essence, particularly early in the show as he tilts his head and moves ferally or hangs nimbly upside down inside his cage. He's equally convincing as the emerging and articulate young man.

Jean puts in a superb performance as Meredith, encapsulating the role of a small-town housewife. Her strong vocals shine, especially in the moving lullaby "A Home for You." Joyner is excellent in his role as the tormented Dr. Parker, who convincingly fluctuates between compassionate veterinarian and jealous raging murderer. Teran is delightful as Shelley, who goes from mixed-up teenager to mixed-up teenager in love. Teran's sweet voice resonates in "Mine All Mine," a tender duet shared with McVein.

Supporting cast members include a very funny Margaret Innocenti as aggrieved mother Mrs. Taylor. Marc Innocenti as the Reverend Hightower impressed the audience with his aria-style rendition of "A Joyful Noise." And Don Kelley rocks as forest king Pan.

With witty dialogue, catchy songs, over the top small-town characters and plenty of tabloid plot twists interspersed with deeper themes of tolerance and acceptance, Bat Boy: The Musical is good, campy fun.

Bat Boy: The Musical continues Oct. 20, 21, 27, 28 and Nov. 3 and 4. Call 683-4368 for tickets.

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