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Monday, January 14, 2013

"The Lost Boy" @ Artists Rep

"The Lost Boy"  recounts the 1874 kidnapping of Charley Ross in Philadelphia, America's first kidnapping for ransom. Charley is the son of a once wealthy man, but the stock market has crashed and they are living on credit, making the $10,000 ransom a nearly impossible demand. The kidnapping inspired many of our modern day anxieties and fearful admonitions, such as "don't take candy from strangers." (Charley and his brother Walter are lured away from their front yard with the promise of candy and fireworks.)

The case captures the attention of the burgeoning mass-media, and the bizarre and almost sickening imagination of showman P.T. Barnum, who makes frequent appearances in the play and finds some truly odd ways to incorporate the tragedy into his travelling circus acts, culminating in a stomach-turning offer to Charley's father in the play's final moments.....

My favorite scenes-the ones that stayed with me the longest, and were so unnerving that I was surprised they didn't creep into my dreams-were those in which one of the kidnappers, Bill Mosher, (Duffy Epstein) hisses menacingly at the anguished father pulled in so many directions by the police and the media, reminding him that he has his child...  Eventually the play becomes about Charley's father and how he is slowly ensnared in the media's voyeuristic trap, it's very hard to watch......

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