You call this democracy?
The problem with Lonesome Hollow, playwright Lee Blessing’s speculative fiction, is that it isn’t fiction at all. It’s true. And becoming more so with every election, it seems. What began as a cautionary tale has turned into too-true reality.
Blessing, the Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award-nominated author of A Walk in the Woods, sets his new drama in the near future, where sex offenders are quarantined in isolated penal colonies run by private companies. Lonesome Hollow is one such town, walled off and populated with sex offenders whose jail terms have expired but are deemed unsafe for release into “society.” Blessing was inspired by existing state laws that allow continued post-sentence incarceration of sex offenders. In current society, predators, pedophiles and child-porn collectors, among others, are deemed unsalvageable. Even after serving their prison sentence, they are “freed” only under continued supervised release. In Blessing’s vision of the future, sex offenders are completely nonredeemable and thus, permanently unsafe.
Lonesome Hollow centers on two sex offenders: Tuck (Eason Donner in a finely nuanced performance), a photographer of artistic nudes, who, as laws keep changing, is now labeled a pornographer and his books banned; and Nye (Justin D. Muñoz, bravely finding humanity inside a vile character), a child molester drawn to little boys. With the help of a sympathetic guard (Devon Roe), Tuck works toward redemption, while Nye, so consumed with his obsession that when denied photos of naked boys, draws his own. Jamie Kale, as Tuck’s sister, and Jouni Kirjola, as a therapist and prison company man, complete the excellent cast.
Director Gina Williams paces this no-intermission show smartly, building outrage and despair to a crescendo. She makes us face questions of our own humanity. When we consider art or porn, artist or offender, and punishment or persecution, why do we always choose the latter?