WINDY CITY TIMES
||GO BY NIGHT
Playwright: Stephen House
by Rick Reed
This article shared 3087 times since Wed Jun 20, 2001
One wonders what inspired Australian playwright Stephen House to write Go By Night, enjoying its American premiere as part of Bailiwick's Pride Series. While I haven't met Mr. House, and know nothing of his travails, this episodic, one-man journey into adolescent angst and the darkest confines of human nature, failed to ring true. The playwright wants to create a searing portrait of a teenage boy, living on the edge, a character sketch lined in charcoal and black and filled in with the most lurid shade of red. The problem is much of what takes place in Go By Night rings way too familiar. The play is also harmed by the fact that much of what happens simply isn't credible, not because it couldn't happen, but because the playwright fails to supply us with convincing motivation for his character's behavior.
Go By Night is a study of Johnny Boy, an Australian teenager growing up in a small town who doesn't understand his feelings for men. Physically abused by his father, sexually abused by an uncle, and abandoned by his mother ( not intentionally—she dies early on, telling Johnny Boy to escape, to "go by night" and never come back ) , Johnny Boy doesn't have much to look up to in the way of role models. He briefly is befriended by a man called Dog, a macho white trash hero, whom Johnny feels a strong, unwanted attraction to, and who teaches him where the local men cruise and shows him how to bash them. It is at this shadowy park where men congregate that Johnny later returns to, alone, learning to use his youth and beauty in exchange for a moment's attention and what might pass for love. The rest of the play shows us how Johnny runs away to the big city, becomes enamored of heroin and prostitution, and eventually becomes Johnny Girl, taking on the most brutish of tricks, who sometimes beat him and make his escape into the comforting arms of the big H all the more frequent.
Go By Night does have some things to recommend it. Its story, although it could have used some humor, some pockets of warmth, and a little hope to counterpoint all the despair, is gripping enough and the journey Johnny takes is deftly cut, outlined in economical, often lyrical, language. Kevin Moore, as Johnny, gives a committed, energetic performance, creating a real character that almost overcomes the play's shortcomings. But when Johnny slips into a black slip and high heels, even the talent of Mr. Moore cannot help us suspend our disbelief, because nothing that would clue us that Johnny had any interest in cross dressing has come before.
Stephen House shows promise as a playwright, and Kevin Moore talent as an actor, but neither is well served by this vehicle, which seems to showcase mainly an interest in the seedier side of life, with no genuine contact with it.
This article shared 3087 times since Wed Jun 20, 2001
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