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Love Jerry

a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Megan Gogerty

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 1289

SHOWING : January 19, 2006 - February 25, 2006

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

World premiere. Lyrical, haunting, and ultimately redemptive, this unflinchingly honest musical about the long-term affects of child abuse will leave audiences grappling with a socially unacceptable topic.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Kent Gash
Set Designer Kathryn Conley
Props Master Elisabeth Cooper
Props Asst. Marissa Perry
Stage Manager Anne Stainback
Costume Designer English Toole
Mrs. Harris Kristy Casey
Kate Courtenay Collins
Mike Bryan Davis
Sheila Rachel Richards
Jerry David Silverman
Clowny Geoff Uterhardt
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Peel of a layer of skin
by tylers
Friday, February 3, 2006
5.0
That is how I felt upon leaving the theater last night. Brad has done a wonderful job in describing why this show was so good so I will bore you with another pontification. However, I must say that this is the greatest example of what art is since I moved to Atlanta. Mrs. Harris (Kristy Casey) mentions several times that it is "Ok to love one minute and hate the next." That is what is so scarey about this production. The character of Jerry (David Silverman) was a "normal" person. If you did not know his horrible secret then he would be a guy you could hang out with. My skin absolutely shivers when I think of it. Mrs. Yoder, in my mind, missed the point of the show all together. It wasn't about the abused, it was about the abuser. Did it give a level of humanity to an evil person/act? Yes it did. Good God I was afraid. Afraid that this could have been my cub-scout leader, pastor, uncle, ect. ect. While I did have some issues with the actual acting itself that does absolutely nothing to deminish the power, frightening and moving quality. I am actually speechless about this show. Go see it, ESPECIALLY if you have children of your own.

Tyler Schaker [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
The Unheard Voice
by Dedalus
Thursday, February 2, 2006
5.0
In a nutshell, Megan Gogerty’s “Love Jerry” (at Actor’s Express) is one of the best theatrical experiences you’re likely to see this year. Ostensibly a “musical about sexual child abuse,” it’s, in effect, an emotional roller coaster ride that takes on a difficult subject, asks all the hard questions, provides no simplistic “politically correct” answers, and leaves you breathless at the actors’ ability to expose themselves to the ugliest sides of human nature. As a measure of its effect, my wife and I (miles apart along the political spectrum), stayed up late late last night to “decompress,” to talk through the issues, the questions raised, and to agree that this play was correct in raising them, correct in presenting them, and correct in its balance of emotion, horror, and tone.

That being said, I’d like to use this space to talk about the controversy that has arisen around this production. To its credit, Actors Express’s web site contains a link to a letter from protester Nancy Yoder, M. Ed. This letter is a stark illustration of the maxim that you get out of a play a great deal of what you bring to it. After reading it, I was wondering if I saw the same play as Ms. Yoder. This, more than anything, is why I want to address her concerns.

The focus of the Ms. Yoder’s protest can be summarized by several issues:

(1) Rehabilitation and therapy for sexual predators is impossible.
(2) By showing us a sympathetic pedophile, the production endorses his crime and sanitizes its effect.
(3) By not showing us the victim, we are denied hearing what is probably the most compelling voice to be heard.
(4) This is too important an issue to let “the entertainment industry explore and exploit” it.

To be perfectly honest, there is a strong emotional appeal to these arguments. The problem is, they ignore too many facts and come from a place based more on knee-jerk emotional reaction than to evidence, or even aesthetic judgment. To dismiss the easiest first, the fourth point above should be a slap in the face to anyone struggling to produce an artistically credible theatrical experience. It blithely dismisses all theatre, putting it on the same level as Reality TV and Video Games. It may be “elitist” of us, but the fact is that most, if not all of us are attempting to create something more meaningful than 90 minutes of brain candy. It is a telling point that Ms. Yoder’s letter states “Yes, it must be extremely painful for families of pedophiles to deal with their conflicting emotions, but that is their real and PERSONAL journey … it is not for fictionalizing and applauding and Monday-morning quarterbacking over ‘free-champagne-with-you-ticket-stub’ after the show.” (emphasis in original). This statement begs the question, what should theatre be if not the depiction of “a personal journey?” This sentence, more than any other, shows Ms. Yoder’s contempt for theater, and, in a simplistic analysis, would cause us to dismiss her entire protest.

But, to be fall back on such a simplistic analysis, would, probably, make her right.

More telling is her argument about the lack of success in rehabilitation and therapy. In truth, the statistics are contradictory. The gut instinct is to “lock them up and throw away the key,” an approach that is the subtext for almost all of the protest’s arguments. And, again to be honest, this does appeal to our sense of justice, our sense of right and wrong, good and evil. The problem is, this is impractical. To begin with, current law does not provide for life sentences for convicted pederasts. Second, and more important, it is very difficult to get convictions. How then, are we to protect our children and their innocence? Therapy is not a be-all end-all of prevention. But it is necessary. It acknowledges that abuse has causes. It acknowledges that victimizers will be with us. And, more to the point, it provides a system of monitoring and expiation, a means to know where “they” are as well as a method for getting “them” to acknowledge the harm they do (one of the play’s more telling insights is that most abusers are in denial – they are actually shocked that their actions actually hurt the children – therapy provides an effective means of dealing with this denial). No, it’s not perfect. Yes, it’s easier to think we should be able to just sweep “them” under the rug and forget about “them.” But to rail against a play for not depicting a false world where the bad guys are nothing but bad, the innocent are nothing but innocent, and the monster doesn’t get the punishment he deserves, is a little like railing against the sky for raining or the night for being dark.

The second point above is largely a matter of opinion, and we can probably argue until we’re blue in the face. I do not believe showing Jerry as a sympathetic character in any way excuses his actions or sanitizes them. It only helps us to understand how he got to this place, why he feels the way he does, and why his journey is important to show. In fact, the most difficult scene to sit through is his seduction of his nephew – it’s creepy, it’s scary, and, to be honest, I don’t see how anyone can watch it and think this play somehow excuses or condones it. The play’s attitude is not the “I’m OK you’re OK” B.S. Ms. Yoder complains about (if it were, you’d hear me complaining, too). The attitude of the play is this -- a monstrous thing has happened – how did it happen, what can we do about it, and what are the choices along the way. The mother chooses her son – to her there is no question. She, like Ms. Yoder, considers Jerry a monster, and quite rightly so. The father, on the other hand, has a more difficult choice. Of course, he’s horrified by the deed. By the same token, he’s lived a lifetime with his brother, a common childhood under evil conditions. Even when the victim is his son, this shared history cannot be discarded. This is a reality that Ms. Yoder’s black-and-white argument completely ignores.

Finally, I’d like to address the charge of the “missing voice of the victim.” I personally think to have included the boy would have been an act of abuse in itself. Do you know of any 8-year-old actors who can (or should) be subjected, night after night, to such a bewildering array of emotional upheaval? Even is a stylistic choice is made to cast an adult in the child’s role, it would still come across as a gimmick and make an emotional distance that would fatally destroy any impact the play could make. And, if you look at it a certain way, the boy’s voice IS heard. Both Jerry and his brother were victims of abuse – the victim’s voice is really their voice. In fact, when describing the abuse, Jerry, at one point, is struck by the realization the he and his nephew are the same – “I saw the wrinkle of the pillow case on his face, and I realized that he was me!” (or words to that effect).

To summarize, I believe “Love Jerry” is one of the most emotionally wrenching plays you’re likely to see this year. The music succeeds in heightening those emotions, rather than trivializing them. It gives us new insights and raises hard questions into what is a monstrous crime, and shows there are no simplistic answers to them. The protests seem to be based on an emotional black-and-white world view which obscures what the play is really about. To silence Actors Express would be to perpetuate the problem. The protest, if effective, would have the exact opposite effect to what it is striving – this is a case where silence truly is deadly.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

Postscript – a few details to consider – 2 out of 5 girls and 3 out of 5 boys will be the victims of some sort of abuse. In over 90% of the cases, the abuser will be a family member who was abused himself (or herself).

This play is being endorsed by Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and its STOP IT NOW! Campaign, who lead talk-backs with the cast after every performance.

It’s also telling that Ms. Gogerty spent years on research, interviewing victims, victimizers, therapists, law enforcement personnel, and families.

Ms. Yoder blithely dismisses all this with “There is not enough knowledge, perspective or research on child rapists and their molesters or their theoretical rehabilitation to consider ANYONE an expert.” (Emphasis hers). My question is, where is the work, the research, the experience that led her to this conclusion? And, even if she is right, to castigate those who are asking the questions and exploring possible answers is to ensure that no one will ever be an expert. I repeat, in this situation, SILENCE IS DEADLY!
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
WOW! Amazing Review... by mooniemcmoonster
I read that woman's letter and I was infuriated by it. I think she is made from the same cloth as the Cobb County parents are who insisted upon the science book stickers and the people who burn books. That aside, PERFECT response to her letter!


[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

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