The Washington Post humor columnist Alexandria Petri has here written a play about the least funny subject imaginable: pedophiles. And is it funny? Yes, uproariously so. And is it heartbreaking? That also.
Here, a confession: I sometimes fantasize about killing people. The current object of my attention is the toxic fool Dylann Roof – taking the gun he used to kill nine people in Charleston and opening his head like a flower. I would never do such a thing, or course, but I think about it. Perhaps you do too, which would explain why Dexter was on the air for eight seasons.
So it is OK, I think, to fantasize about murder, but the adult who fantasizes about molesting a child is, by his very thinking, a pariah. Thus Kyle (Seth Rosenke), who never molested children but at one time had a bad child-porn addiction, and Alan (Matthew Sparacino), who hasn’t gone that far but recognizes that he has those feelings, are members of “Narrow Path”, a society for adults who are sexually attracted to children and never, never want to act on their feelings.
Alan is in a stable relationship with the effervescent, good-hearted Becca (Latia Stokes), who has no idea of his secret vice. Kyle is pretty much a mess, estranged from his family and unable to form a relationship with adult women…or, with the exception of Alan and Becca, pretty much anybody else. They nonetheless attempt to set him up with Amy (Lizzi Albert), a high-strung woman whose surprising bluntness is the source of much of the story’s tension-relieving humor.
Never Never is, at bottom, a story about the near occasion of sin. Kyle works at a library and does story time for the kiddies (the story, perhaps inevitably, is Peter Pan). When Becca’s beloved brother moves into town Alan is introduced to his seven-year-old stepson, with whom he immediately bonds. Is this so terrible? A family should be besotted with love, and we revere fathers who are not ashamed to kiss their sons. But the house of Eros needs to be kept firmly separate from the house of Agape, and to men like Alan, the two houses seem to have an adjoining passageway.
by Alexandra Petri
Directed by Kevin O’Connell
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Like a Hitchcock movie, Never Never is drenched with suspense; when it explodes into confrontation, every combusted minute is well earned. Every character is both authentic and credible, and we see, in a few deft strokes of Petri’s pen, the horrible dilemmas that confront each of them. This, of course, is not just to Petri’s credit, but to the credit of these fine actors and director Kevin O’Connell. Sparacino carries the principal weight of the story, and does so beautifully: Alan is a likeable, decent man, and also a pedophile. Not many writers could carry that off, and not many actors could perform such a text, but Petri and Sparacino succeed.
The others are equally successful. Rosenke carries his grief and defeat with him like a second coat even while he pretends to wisecrack through life. Stokes takes Becca’s radiant cheeriness and convincingly turns it into despair the moment she discovers Alan’s secret. And Albert employs an engaging persona and good comic timing to turn what could have been a caricature into a warm, living person.
We should see more of these actors, and more of Petri – who, I must tell you, is a much better playwright than she is a humor columnist. This is not a judgment about her column, but if you regularly read it, you should prepare for something much, much better when you see Never Never. You will be seeing the output of a Washington playwright of the first rank, whose work should be nurtured and cherished.