By: Avis Alger
There is something to be said for the truth; a commitment to the truth. There is beauty in being boldly and bravely transparent, owning all the history that your life encompasses. That’s part of the magic of theater. We get to peer into an artificial reality, a true world for the characters on stage, and experience something unknown or familiar, and then walk right back into our real lives.
That being said, it only seems fair to let the audience know what they are about to see. The press release I received for Steven Fechter’s play, The Woodsman, spoke of a former criminal rehabilitating his life. That’s a common story. It reminded me of Shawshank Redemption when reading it. However, the story about a child molester who has been imprisoned for 12 years, then released and living next to an elementary school is not your typical crime, or a life commonly known. That information should be placed in the marketing materials, like a TV or movie rating. People should be warned so that they may prepare to experience something so disturbing. They deserve to have the right to choose what kind of an evening they are about to experience. There is certainly a market and an audience for such works, but hiding it is manipulative.
Moreover, a show with such an intense story needs an intermission. People need a break. This is not light, frothy, happy stuff. It requires air, breathing, and processing time. So now we have been lured to see an intense story and trapped for an entire two plus hours watching an ill man attempting to heal.
There were many amazing things about this work. Nick Moore’s sound design and compositions were spectacular! The house lights stay on and an aural collage of street sounds, children laughing, and haunting tones fill the theater, then the lights dim. There were many theater of the absurd moments that were intriguing and brilliantly staged by director Alexander Dineclaris. You may feel like you are being brought into this man’s world.
Outstanding, truthful, and authentic performances were given by Stuart Walker (Walter) and Mercedes Griffeth(girl/Robin) There is a general lack of sincerity and darkness from the rest of the ensemble featuring the talents of: Gabe Bettio, Gabriel Castillo, Jane Cortney, and Earle Hugens. These characters are all broken and have lived through some deranged scarring traumatic defining experiences. Their lack of commitment to the moment, and that history, hurts the suspension of reality.
Fechter states in the program that his challenge in writing this piece was making the criminal the hero. Playwrights get the chance to focus a great deal of attention to almost anything, to give stories glory, and when done right influence society. A script is a timeless gift for the world, the audience. It shouldn’t be a gift for the playwright.
The Woodsman is running at the June Havoc Theater 312 West 36 St. now through May 10. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or oberontheater.org.