[The following contains mild spoilers.]
Michael Wicherek’s “Time for the Good Looking Boy,” which is currently playing in the Pleasance Dome, initially masquerades as a piece of ishoos-based contemporary theatre, about an “urban” hoodie who is demanding to be exonerated by us, the bourgeois audience. Lloyd Thomas’ teenager is outraged by what he imagines is our poor opinion of him. He is the golden boy, he cleans up and volunteers to mow the lawn, he always picks that ring of hair out of the plughole in the shower, he looks out for his little sister, and loves his girlfriend as mindlessly as a puppy. In fact, he radiates a bourgeois sense of satisfaction with life. And his face is verily his fortune, for he proudly tells us that everybody adores his good looks.
If this character declares that he is a nice guy, we will never doubt that this is true. But there is another side of the coin, and instead of deciding to educate us out of our stuffy prejudices, this monologue is actually revealed to be an energetic and innovative recital of a hoary old ghost story. The old ones are the best – Tychy first heard a version of this particular story at primary school – but the tale is told very successfully, and it delivers that sweetly ghoulish around-the-campfire thrill. Story, stage design and soundtrack combine to achieve a richly haunted aesthetic, of late-night parties in abandoned houses and driving through silenced suburbs under moonlight.
The ghost of an “unreliable narrator” is there only if you seek him, for the hoodie is otherwise too nice to be untrustworthy. There was some unobjectionable rapping (of the urban rather than the séance variety) – okay, it was actually rather good – whilst a spot of audience participation helped along the story. When the lady whom Thomas had selected as a victim – I mean, privileged participant – refused to react to him, this unwittingly affirmed what we later, ahem, learn of his character. The hoodie decided to “see” the audience, and talk to them directly, which fostered an intimacy crucial to the performance, although the audience had to keep schtum, for fear of letting the penny drop. This is a sweet and tender hooligan, but, as Morrissey might have quoth, in the midst of his life he is in death etcetera.