Part The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and part Spring Awakening Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie Forest Boy is incredibly well done. Reminding you of Marianne Elliott’s direction, director Robert McQueen has employed movement director E.J. Boyle to create the same kind of look as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and the look is fluid and magical. Gilmour’s (book and lyrics) and McKenzie (music) is a perfect pairing for this story which really has no ending or purpose.
The plot line is taken out of the headlines from 2011 when Ray (Will Connolly), a young man shows up in a shelter care for youths in Germany. With no name, identity or personal history he captivates all he comes in contact, with his tale of how his Mother (Doreen Petra) died from a car crash and his father Ryan (Christopher Russo), raised him in the forest. When an investigator named Maas (Remi Sandri), becomes involved, we learned that his father died and this may not be as it seems. We meet a girlfriend named Lara (Erika Olson), who may or may not be real and who keeps the secret of their child together. In the end this is the tale of a psychologically damaged mind and the lengths a deluded personality will go to have a different kind of life just rings with a dull note.
I sat there not realizing, I know this story and the actual events Forest Boy is based on. As I realized this was indeed the same story, the same question that have come to mind through out this festival, is who is Forest Boy’s audience? No matter how well the score blends pop, theatrical and country and uses the underscoring in a rather thrilling way, this story has no where to go. The band conducted by Wiley DeWeese, is full of top rated musicians, as are the singers and actors. Connolly and Russo are a perfect father and son team and their bond makes us believe Ray’s story all the more. Petra’s voice is warm, nurturing and melodic as the mother who still watches over her son. Erika Olson’s clear tones bring to mind Nellie in Floyd Collins. Capturing a lot of smaller roles Ally Bonino made the most of her material.
The direction using the minimual set pieces (Ann Beyersdorfer) and actors as trees, bridges and everything else in between is so well done but who truly will buy tickets for this? As an audience we do not being taken in especially when the con artist is in the end deranged.
Forest Boy: Pearl Theatre, 555 West 42nd St. 8/2 5PM