Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 25, 2011

Tabloid tale takes to the stage in 'Bat Boy'

Quirky musical is immensely entertaining while revealing truths

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Bats normally don't inspire love or affection.

But somehow the star of "Bat Boy, the Musical," playing now at Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre's black box venue in Pleasanton, manages to be lovable, fascinating and funny. Very funny.

The production spins from a 1992 tabloid story about a half-boy, half-bat, who's allegedly been discovered. In the late '90s, the Actors Gang in Los Angeles presented this exciting take on the weird story and since then it has gained a cult following.

In the musical, when the Bat Boy (Alex Rodriguez) is found in a cave by three teenagers and attacks one of them, he's creepy and scary. The teens manage to bring the Bat Boy home to Hope Falls, W.Va., and the nervous town folks deliver him to veterinarian Dr. Parker (Paul Plain) to be euthanized.

But the doc is out duck hunting. His wife Meredith (Patty Penrod) takes in the Bat Boy, names him Edgar and, over a period of time, civilizes him, with help from her daughter Shelley (Meghan Ihle). Edgar even earns his high school equivalency diploma.

At that point, Edgar is lovable -- dressing like a dandy, taking pride in learning new words, and quoting the Bible to make a point. But meanwhile cattle are mysteriously dying, threatening the town's economy, and all eyes turn in suspicion to the Bat Boy. And he's being kept alive with meals of blood provided by Dr. Parker.

This latest TVRT satire is a festival of emotions – fear, horror, delight – all accompanied by a fine chorus of singing and dancing. Act II opens with a rousing revival meeting headed by the visiting faith healer Rev. Hightower, where Edgar begs for acceptance – and almost succeeds.

"He is a boy with a big need as all of us are. Where do we find our place?" explains director Paul Plain in the program notes. "The musical is goofy, it's quirky, it's weird, but it is also tragically truthful."

The plot twists and turns with outrageous characters, many in drag and some taking on two roles. The audience howled in parts, and the actors seemed to enjoy the production as much as those who had paid to watch. It's a spoof with truths and what better way to have them presented?

The bizarre tale does require a little adjustment.

As Plain says: "Open you mind and your heart and hold on to your seat."

Note: It's for adults, not recommended for younger audiences.

An amazing tale

What: "Bat Boy -- The Musical"

Who: Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre

When: 8 p.m. Fridays/Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; Feb. 25-March 13

Where: TVRT Studio Theatre, 1048 Serpentine Lane, Suite 309, Pleasanton

Cost: $25 for adults; $22, seniors; $20, students; substantial discount for groups purchasing 20 or more tickets.

Tickets: Go to www.trivalleyrep.org; call 462-2121; or go to theater ticket office, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., on Wednesdays or Fridays

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