Dark Themes Shine Bright in “Bat Boy”

Illustration by Elena Griedel

Who doesn’t love a good plot twist? A little something that leaves you hungry for more and amplifies any and all emotions already being felt. The musical Bat Boy by Brian Flemming and Key the Farley, put on by the Youth Musical Theater Company at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland, had many emotions which added to the hitherto outrageous plot. Being so highly improbable and rather unusual, Bat Boy can be accurately described using a few words. Its boldness was a risk that paid off with the excellent reward of a riveting work of theatre.

Set in Hope Falls, Virginia, the play tells the story of a half-boy, half-bat named Edgar, commonly known as Bat Boy. Up until a certain point in his teenage life, he had spent his entire existence within the confines of a dark cave. Bat Boy is discovered by a rag-tag trio of siblings, and from there he is taken to the town veterinarian’s house to be dealt with, although no one is yet sure how that will be. While Bat Boy is waiting in a huge cage for the return of the veterinarian, Dr. Parker, to come back from a hunting trip, Dr. Parker’s wife, Meredith, begins to care for Bat Boy. Meredith starts to show this newfound affection in the way of small motherly habits. This leads to quite the discussion between the Parkers because Dr. Parker thought things would be simpler and more favorable towards his social standing if he were to kill Bat Boy right off the, well, bat. After much musical debate, the Parker family decided they would house Bat Boy and teach him the rules of how to behave in what might be considered a civilized society.

At that point, you might think it is yet another version of the all too familiar story, told time and time again, where someone different, usually the protagonist, is introduced into a choice setting and is resented by the other characters because of their differences. However, most other works with that general plot line end on a happy and satisfying note, with the acceptance and welcoming of differences. Bat Boy, having taken a darker cinematic route, thrilled much of the audience, myself included, in the way it completely ignored the previous concepts, resulting in a much more enticing and complex theatrical piece.

Featured in this play were exceptionally talented young artists local to the Bay Area, some of which are students at our very own Berkeley High School! It was very inspiring to see people of a similar age group perform so wonderfully.

In addition to the actor’s incredible singing and the execution of fun choreography routines, there were live musicians visible just off to the side of the stage. What is more exciting than sitting in the front row and being able to see all the artists enjoying themselves. Not only did the actors look jubilant on stage, but the assisting musicians would break out into smiles while watching the performance, playing along joyfully on their respective instruments. It is no wonder that the culmination of all these parts were so enrapturing, not only because it stirred feelings of joy within myself and other audience members, but also because it made the performers happy.

Withstanding two scenes that made me uncomfortable, due to surprisingly mature content, I really enjoyed the show. It was thrilling and wonderfully comedic in a way that balanced out some of the somber plot points. It was executed well with bold lights and bright voices by people with a clear passion for theatre. Seeing the fruit of their labor was a lovely treat that I would highly recommend the show, as long as you are willing to witness some more mature content from young artists.

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