note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
Fear is a terrible thing, especially when it’s based in reality. It lurks around us, an unseen, unknown specter, haunting the subconscious.
Guilt is equally devastating.
When you put the two together, it can be overwhelming, especially in 26-year-old Lauren Yee’s one-act, 75-minute, existential, comic horror, teen slasher play, “Hookman,” making its premiere through April 14 at the Calderwood Pavilion, Hall A, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston.
As part of the XX Playlab program promoting women playwrights and the development of new scripts, the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) has collaborated with Company One to present this workshop production of Yee’s play on the East Coast. Yee, a graduating MFA student at the University of California at San Diego, will also present her play at the Baldwin New Play Festival there, before she renders its final touches.Based on its successful Boston run, Yee’s work appears almost finished. Nevertheless, she’s seeking audience reaction and suggestions on both coasts to ensure its success.
In several printed interviews, Yee admits her personality is unusual. When she’s afraid of something, such as horror movies or unexplained deaths, she closes her eyes or tries to find humor to defuse it. Years ago, one of her classmates whom she barely knew died unexpectedly, without explanation of what caused her death. Several people continued to send messages or comments to the decedent’s Facebook page, which troubled Yee. Yee also dated a guy in high school who terrified her with tales of dreaded murderer, Hookman, setting her imagination in overdrive. Hookman haunted her dreams, her thoughts. He loomed larger than life over her. That’s precisely what he does to Yee’s main character, Lexi, a Californian who’s a freshman at the University of Connecticut.
The play boasts a talented young cast, directed by versatile Greg Maraio. Besides performing with other theater companies, many “Hookman” cast members have portrayed key roles with Apollinaire of Chelsea.
Armed with Edward Young’s jarring sound design, Saulis Slezas’ lighting, Lynn Wilcott’s special effects and Michael Best’s impressive set, “Hookman’s” suspense builds, becoming creepier and creepier. Yee also symbolically weaves in Joan Didion’s book,“The Year of Magical Thinking,” with specific references to a woman who can bring back the dead. In three replays, Lexi (Erin Eva Butcher) is home on Thanksgiving break, driving with her friend, Jess (Nicole Prefontaine), to a movie. Gabbing and snacking away, Lexi becomes distracted --- especially by Hookman hovering around her --- and crashes the car. As Lexi discusses a friend who died of unknown causes, she becomes increasingly confused, shaken when Jess dies from their car crash. Lexi’s mind replays the accident over and over again. She realizes she was going in the wrong direction when she crashed with a drunk driver. In each replay, besides Jess, two friends are blood-stained: Lexi’s alcohol-swilling, loose roommate, Yoonji (Pearl Shin); and UConn petition-wielding, anti-drunk driving activist Chloe (Hannah Cranton).
The Hookman (Joseph Kidawski, who also portrays her online, oafish boyfriend Sean and helpful hero Adam) pervades Lexi’s existence. He’s in her dorm room, in the car, at her California home, wielding his curved meathook around her and her friends. In Lexi’s mind, all guys evolve into the hooded Hookman. Milourdes Augustin as Kayleigh rounds out the cast.
At one point, Lexi and the Hookman engage in battle, his hook interlocked with her large knife.
Thing is, are these incidents real, or figments of Lexi’s subconscious and conscience?
Yee probes deep into Lexi’s psyche while emanating to the audience, arousing introspective examination of individuals’ bogeymen and smothering guilt.
BOX INFO: One-act play, written by Lauren Yee, presented by the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) and Company One, appearing through April 14 at the Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston: Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m., Thursdays,7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets: $25; students with ID, $10. Visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com the Box Office, or call 617-933-8600.