They’re doing a show called “Bat Boy?” Well heck, I’ll go see a show about Batman’s protégé. “Hold me, Bat Boy, touch me Bat Boy.” Well I would say that to an apprentice of Christian Bale, George Clooney or Michael Keaton anytime.
Imagine my surprise when the musical opens to a couple of Hope Falls, WV kids spelunking into a cave to find a deformed half-bat, half-boy creature. Let me note that it was a pleasant surprise.
The next two hours were filled with melodic pop-rock anthems, a holy revival and a murder/suicide. And did I mention the dead cows, incest and pheromones?
Brendan Duffy’s performance as the Bat Boy, aka Edgar, captured our hearts as we follow him through abuse and ridicule. But with the help of his soon-to-be-revealed mother Meredith Parker and sister Shelley Parker, played by Sarah Laughland and Layne Bailey respectively, Edgar “showed us a thing or two.”
Not on Edgar’s side was veterinary doctor Thomas Parker, whom we later find out is Edgar’s father, portrayed by Andy Meholick. Trying to keep the peace and sanity is Sheriff Reynolds, played by Cameron Corcoran, who brought Edgar to the Parkers to begin with.
Edgar so desperately wants to be accepted into society that he seeks Christian charity at the local revival. Reverend Hightower, played by Kristy Bissell, delivers a powerful “Joyful Noise” to grant him that affirmation.
But the happy moments aren’t to last long as Thomas infects the spelunkers, Ruthie and Ron, with a lethal drug that he deviously intends to trace back to Edgar. Respectively played by Ariel Watters and Matt Leslie, they took on multiple roles, including Watters as townsman Ned and Leslie as townswoman Lorraine.
Helpless to escape his feral instincts, Edgar retreats to the woods once again where Shelley comforts him. With a visit from the Greek god of nature Pan, performed by Bre Connell, the audience suddenly witnesses implied incest between an ignorant Shelley and Edgar.
Now keep in mind that the relations between the Parkers and Edgar are unknown until the very end where it’s revealed that a pheromone experiment gone wrong causes Meredith to be violated by a sex-crazed Thomas and bats. Unable to accept the deformed child, Thomas abandons the infant to be raised by bats.
There’s a lot of shame, confusion and anger at the end that leads to the murder/suicide of Edgar, Meredith and Thomas. Shelley is left with the townsmen to reflect on their actions and “Christian Charity.”
Beyond the seemingly odd storyline, there was a lot of passion and talent that went into this production. You could tell that the students were having a blast while performing to the best of their abilities. And I have to add a shout-out to the pit musicians, technical staff and wardrobe/makeup managers who helped to make this production a success.
To sum it up, everything in the theater department’s hands was phenomenal. Out of their hands was the bizarre storyline that had me puzzled. Through the production, they left us with the lessons that you should “love your neighbor” and “forgive.” They also taught us that “a mountain’s no place to raise cows.”