Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Prince Gomolvilas's Mysterious Skin
Also see Richard's recent review of Zorro
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting the world premiere of Prince Gomolvilas' confrontational drama Mysterious Skin at the 60 seat bandbox Walker Theatre. The drama is based on a novel by Scott Heim which the New York Times called "searing and powerfully sensuous." This production should be considered the same praise.
Prince Gomolvilas is a fast rising playwright now living in Los Angeles, and his plays have been performed in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Singapore. The playwright has retained the heart of Heim's novel of the book's twin themes of alien abduction and sexual abuse. As director Arturo Catricala says, "He has remained faithful to the novel's themes of defining self and learning right from wrong. Prince has translated the original material into theatre beautifully." The two hour (with intermission) presentation keeps you fascinated in the progress of the "mystery."
Mysterious Skin follows the story of 18 year old Brian (Taylor Valentine) in Kansas who is searching for the answers behind traumatic events that occurred 10 years ago. He remembers nothing after a little league game when he suffered "a blackout of five hours." Avalyn (Rebecca M Fisher), a writer of science fiction books and a firm believer of UFOs, tries to convince Brian he was abducted by aliens during that five hour period since the young man remembers vaguely being poked about the body. This leads him deep into an investigation of the paranormal and his own troubled past.
The twin plot also follows Neil (Joseph Parks), an 18 year old streetwise character in New York. He left the same small town in Kansas to become a male hustler in New York with a thing for sex with older men. Neil holds the key as to what happened when both young men were 8 years old. Neil returns to Kansas for the Christmas holidays, finally meets Brian and the terrifying truth comes out. The last scene of the drama is a shocker and can best be described as a scene in a horror story where a person goes to a closet door knowing that something terrible is behind the door, but cannot resist opening it. What happens is horrifying.
Taylor Valentine plays Brian as a confused "nerd" type individual and he gives a consummate performance in the last scene. Joseph Parks gives a polished performance as the ultra cool worldly, with a touch of naivety, Neil. Rich Dymer plays several characters in the drama, including a vicious older man who victimizes Neil in an appalling sex act. However, Dymer appears in one brief scene that does not ring true. He attempts to play a "teenager" who is in love with Neil. Dymer, who is an excellent actor, can't give the illusion of being 18 and the scene itself does not lend anything to the play.
The two females in the cast are excellent. Megan Towle has the showier roles, especially when she plays the hyper Wendy, a New York friend of Neil's. She has an overactive thyroid problem and reminds me of a Valley Girl transplanted in New York. She also has scenes as the mother of Neil and as a court clerical worker, both of which are complete opposites of Wendy. Rebecca M. Fisher plays the sexual repressed Avalyn, the UFO expert. She is like a puppy dog in heat when talking face to face with Brian, from whom she wants more than friendship.
Direction by Arturo Catricala is excellent and the scenes blend together well. In one section, there are three different pieces of action going on, with each scene playing perfectly to each other. The set is minimal with black boxes being used for props and a starry backdrop suggesting some paranormal existence in the first act.
Mysterious Skin runs through June 28 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, Ca For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org.
Coming to the theater complex are When Pigs Fly opening on May 18th and Taking a Change on Love: The Lyrics of John Latouche opening on May 31.