One of the scariest things about the stalker in Rebecca Gilman’s 2000 drama is that he sees himself as the hero in a romantic comedy—the socially awkward schmuck who gets the girl through persistence and the occasional dramatic gesture. Actually, he’s much closer to the villain in a Lifetime movie. His psychosis is the play’s most dramatic example of a gap between perception and reality. Gilman uses stalking to examine a whole battery of faulty assumptions men make about women and vice versa.
At the center of things is Theresa (Kristin Collins), a smart and capable reporter who becomes the object of a man’s dogged and soon frightening pursuit after a blind date. Gilman provides a strong idea of what experiencing such an ordeal must be like—the fear, the self-doubt, the way it poisons interactions with other men. But unlike Lifetime, the playwright preserves the messy complexity of real life. When, for instance, Theresa is sent to interview a boobs-obsessed, Russ Meyer–like film director (a gloriously lecherous Leonard Kraft), we expect a screed on the objectification of women. Instead, an unlikely friendship develops.
Cody Estle’s staging is no great shakes to look at, thanks to Amanda Rozmiarek’s too-busy set design involving a splatter-paint floor and multiple playing spaces that remain visible throughout. But the atmosphere is tense and the supporting cast solid, especially Will Casey and Jon Stutzman as Theresa’s stalwart colleagues and John Stokvis as the stalker, played with a terrifying mix of guilelessness, mania and menace.