On Friday April 21, SUNY New Paltz’s Theatre Department welcomed “Bat Boy” to the McKenna Theatre stage. The production was run through Mainstage Productions with a cast and crew filled with and managed by students. Classified as a horror rock musical, “Bat Boy” comes with an intense and intricate plot laced with dark humor and sensitive subjects for some viewers.
“Bat Boy” was inspired by a series of Weekly World News tabloid headlines published in 1992 that followed the story of a terrifying half-man, half-bat creature that was discovered in a cave, escaped and was being pursued by the federal government. Serving as a sort of homage to the ‘60s and ‘70s rock musicals, Bat Boy has a unique soundtrack that juxtaposes the heavy and potentially triggering plot content.
Set in a small southern town in West Virginia in the year 1997, “Bat Boy” follows the story of Edgar. Played by third-year theater major Simon Woods, Edgar, the Bat Boy, is half-bat, half-human. Until he was discovered by the three Taylor siblings, Bat Boy grew up alone in a cave, causing him to come off as undomesticated and animalistic in the beginning of the play. From there, Bat Boy is taken in by the local veterinarian Dr. Thomas Parker — played by fourth-year theater major Irving Zuniga — and his family.
Naive to the true nature of narrow-minded, cult-like Christian southern towns, Bat Boy works to assimilate himself into human civilization. Bat Boy has faith that by learning etiquette, basic curriculum and studying the Bible he can fit in despite his terrifying appearance. Discovering the feeling of family, faith and love, Bat Boy’s characterization contrasts the increasingly negative view the town has of him. Aspects of Bat Boy being inherently sinful and unholy paint him as everything the town fears, yet also reflects parts of all characters.
“Bat Boy” comes off as a dark comedy with heavy subjects and a potentially confusing plotline. Deeper insight into the meaning of the musical, however, suggests that beneath the surface of every civilized person lies a primitive, primordial beast that drives many hungers and fears. A landmark quote from “Bat Boy,” “Don’t deny your beast inside,” works to prove that the Bat Boy character is ultimately a manifestation of what many fear and who they are deep down. Because Bat Boy differs from others on the surface, he is scrutinized and feared more than others even though every character in the play eventually gives in to their inner beast.
Kiersten DeLorey, first-year theater arts major, served as Deck Head, Fight Captain and Assistant Stage Manager on the set of “Bat Boy.” DeLorey explained that “Bat Boy” features a “weird version of acceptance.” Despite differences in visual appearance and lived experience, it “doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be accepted into society.” The musical’s plot, according to DeLorey, is a result of “what happens when you don’t accept people.”
The set of “Bat Boy” features a working turntable, split in half, where all scenes take place both on and in front of. Working with limited space and a relatively small cast, the production did not appear constrained nor feel short on resources. First-year theater arts major Christopher Etienne, who worked as Assistant Stage Manager in the Stage Management Department, directly helped to build the turntable. A difficult task, Etienne described how seeing the set in full-swing on opening night was rewarding after months of hard work. He explained how the process of building such a set “was very interesting and very hard to see come together,” but was ultimately exciting to witness.
DeLorey also included that “Even though [“Bat Boy”] covers some pretty difficult topics, I think it does it in a light-hearted way. And it’s funny, and a lot of people worked really hard on it.” Seeing how the production is both visually stunning and features incredible talent, “Bat Boy’s” importance proves itself through both its aesthetics and meanings displayed to audience members.
It was clear to see the months of hard work and dedication put in both onstage and behind the scenes on opening night. Articulated by Etienne, “The story of ‘Bat Boy’ is indeed very strange and peculiar, however, the music of the show and the story is very catchy.” The show will be running in McKenna Theatre on April 27, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m., for those who have not yet had the chance to see the impressive production.