BY MATT JUSTUS
Directed by Y-Vonne Hutchinson (2L)
Starring Jared Delgin (3L), Lauren Popper (2L), Jeffrey Paik (3L)
Review by Matt Justus
This past weekend, the Harvard Law School Drama Society staged “Bat Boy: the Musical,” the off-Broadway show by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming, and Laurence O’Keefe based on an infamous series of articles in the tabloid Weekly World News. It takes a special script to line a bestiality joke right after a rape joke (and not long after an incest joke), and it takes an even more special cast to make it work. Luckily, the HLS Drama Society was up to the task.
The story, such as it is, revolves around a monstrous half (or at least one-third) bat boy (Jared Delgin, 3L), discovered in the caves of West Virginia by a trio of stoner siblings. He is brought to Dr. Parker, the town veterinarian and seemingly the only doctor around (Jeffrey Paik, 3L), by the sheriff (David Joffe, 1L), who assumes that the monster will be put out of everyone’s misery and he’ll be able to seek re-election in peace.
Unfortunately for the people of Hope Falls, who seem to be based on the average readership of the Weekly World News, the vet’s wife Meredith (Lauren Popper) and daughter Shelley (Naeun Rim, 1L) take a liking to the beast and decide to teach him to be a member of society. The Bat Boy, aka Edgar, is a quick study, and is soon speaking (and singing) English with a refined accent, though he maintains a taste for small woodland creatures and rodents. Yet the vet still wants the Bat Boy out of the way, and he is willing to kill to make sure that it happens.
A straight description of the plot of the show does not do it justice. Not when you have a play that features a song by some kind of nature spirit, complete with a background orgy, a woman accidentally burning her own son to death, a bat-on-woman rape sequence, and possibly the most insane showtune lyric I have ever heard (namely, “I’m gonna make you into my prison wife tonight.”)
The script is…eclectic, to say the least, ranging from straight comedy to horror, from satire to something approximating Greek tragedy. Likewise, the musical numbers are all over the map: gospel revivalist, rap, hoedown, and the more standard love songs are all represented. It is manic, but it does have the potential to be funny.
Fortunately, the Drama Society exploited that potential. The performances were uniformly better than you might expect from a troupe of Harvard law students (having missed out on the Parody last year, I had no idea what to expect going in), most notably those of Jared Delgin in the title role and Lauren Popper as Meredith.
Delgin was especially good in the early scenes, playing Bat Boy as an eternally smiling (see the photos in last week’s issue) animal. In later scenes, once Bat Boy had achieved sentience, he played the character straight, letting the humor flow from the situations as opposed to the performance. It was an interesting choice, but it worked.
Popper, on the other hand, took her character over the top, with excellent timing and delivery (a requisite when speaking the line “To say he took me would be…romanticizing the act.”).
Apart from the leads, the chorus as a whole deserves special commendation; a poor chorus can do a lot to detract from an otherwise fine show. This one remained enthusiastic throughout and only added to the mood. Likewise, the vocal work was, with a few exceptions, very well done. Special mention here goes to Giselle Woo (2L), playing Reverend Hightower and the aforementioned nature spirit (referred to as Pan in the program, which makes as much sense as could be expected) and doing double duty as the show’s producer.
I was similarly impressed with the production of the show. The space, namely Pound Hall’s John Chipman Gray Room, was very effectively utilized. It reminded me of the kind of off-off-Broadway theatre that you find in Soho, which I suppose is a credit to the production team. Worthy of special note was the choreography, which managed to successfully track the erratic moods presented by the songs, and was always interesting, never distracting to watch. Really, the main problem that I had with the show was with the script, which, though it moved fast enough to distract the audience most of the time, could have benefited from more cohesion with respect to its tone.
Overall, it was a good show and very well staged. If it were still up, I would recommend that you go see it. Since it is not, I will recommend that you go see the Parody this spring instead, which will likely feature many of the same performers.