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I think Prodigal Son would have been much more interesting from the point of view of RSL's character, Alan Hoffman, and here's why.

The "pivotal scene" I mentioned in my review is when Alan Hoffman, the teacher and mentor to 17-year-old Jim steps way over a line and tries to hit on Jim. When Jim says something to the effect of, "What are you doing?" Alan immediately pulls back and drops it.

There had been a prior scene where Jim expressed doubts about his looks, and Alan told him he was good-looking. This prompted Jim to ask for a ranking of his looks against other boys in the school. It came across to me as self-centered on Jim's part rather than flirtatious.

When layered with previous mentions of a former mentee of Alan's who killed himself and a future mention of Alan being fired when a student finally comes to the headmaster, it's obvious that Alan is gay and hitting on boys in this small Catholic school in a small New Hampshire town in the 1960s.

So who is Alan? He hits on underage teens, so he's definitely a predator. But did he start out to be a predator? That is, given that Catholics in the 1960s had stronger, harsher condemnation for homosexuality as wrong than for imbalanced power dynamics as wrong, would Alan have been a predator if he'd grown up in a different time or worked in a different place?

In the play, there is no exploration of Alan's feelings about himself and what he's done. Alan saying "I don't want you writing about me" is just about all we get.

Here are some other lines that were important in the show:

- "I want that for you, Alan." This is spoken by Carl, the headmaster, after telling Alan how fulfilling it is to have a wife who stands by you and is a true partner. Alan's reply is, "Some day."

- "He wasn't strong; you're strong." Alan and Jim talk about another boy at the school who was troubled, and had committed suicide. This other boy was Alan's mentee as well. The "not strong" refers to the mental toughness to endure -- but are they just talking about turbulence of adolescence? Or does Alan mean same-sex attraction has to be endured? Or is it being hit on by your teacher that you have to be strong enough for?

- "I don't know why I do the things I do." Jim says this more than once. I think Alan would like to claim such innocence for himself.

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
cuddyclothes
Mar. 5th, 2016 03:55 am (UTC)
The idea that Alan was a sexual predator (or even gay, to me his sexuality was kind of not-there) came absolutely out of the blue. The gesture he made of reaching toward the kid's cheek was so badly staged! When I saw it, RSL had to lean all the way across a wide desk to touch the kids face with his forefinger. He might as well have said "boop!".
daasgrrl
Mar. 6th, 2016 01:24 am (UTC)
It sounds like such an interesting character for him - you know, I was going to snarkily comment that the 'hitting on' scene might have worked better if he'd tried to hit upon a male (because that just seems to work better for him in the things I've seen him in) but it sounds like it was!

So especially after reading cuddyclothes' post I'm interested in what you found didn't work - his acting, the guy's reaction, the direction, the dialogue...? Just curious *g*
discofunction
Mar. 7th, 2016 10:30 am (UTC)
Since there is no chance of me seeing the play, thought I'd read on despite the spoilers! :-)

Wow! I am much more interested in this storyline line than the privilidged, good looking, whiny kid wins the day plot.

It seems very vague about what his motivations are - as you say, yes he is a predator but did he start out to be? What I mean is, does he just have a creepy thing for young boys or is it that he is so repressed in his deeply religious/homophobic environment that these boys who look up to him are the only people he feels he can push these feelings with.

That said, I have little sympathy for him. As a mentor/teacher, he is in a position of power over them and therefore taking advantage but it would be interesting to hear what he thinks of his actions.

Interestingly, this part has been barely mentioned by critics and in reviews. Whether it was so fleeting/badly staged that people missed it completely or whether they just didn't know what to make of it, I don't know. Infact, on the many, many tweets from audience members, only one referred to it:

@michalbirnbaum
I appreciate how in Prodigal Son by @JohnJpshanley the sexual abuser is the nicest person on stage. Those men don't have horns.

vanishing_time
Mar. 20th, 2016 09:10 pm (UTC)
lol was it face poking in the beginning? by the time I saw the play (on the 17th) they certainly tuned up the gay... i mean Robert was not poking the kid's face with a finger (lol), but kept stroking his hair for what seemed like an HOUR before leaning in... he could have sat closer, but it still was REALLY creepy, even though it felt a little awkward from Robert's part. (but it could be passed as canon awkardness and/or fear if you are gracious.)
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