Editor's Choice: The Woodsman
Pacific Theatre, April 3-26
By Matt O'Grady
On July 29, 1994, Jesse Timmendequas—a previously convicted sex offender—lured seven-year-old Megan Kanka into his Hamilton Township, New Jersey, home to see his puppy. He then raped and beat her, strangling her to death with his belt. After Timmendequas was charged, Megan’s parents started campaigning for a law requiring neighbours to be notified when a convicted pedophile moves into their community. By 1996, “Megan’s Law” was in force across the United States.
New York playwright Steven Fechter was, like many people, captivated by the case—and by a question: Can a pedophile find redemption? “It was very black-and-white,” Fechter says of the media coverage surrounding Megan’s Law." “The men were depicted as monsters. I thought it would be interesting to write a play about one of these men who serves his term and returns to society, and the huge obstacles facing him.” In The Woodsman, which debuted off-Broadway in 2000 (and makes its Canadian debut here), the story centres on Walter, a child molester released from prison after 12 years, and his struggles to reintegrate into society, to rebuild ties with friends and family, to pursue a normal sexual relationship, and, most of all, to live with himself.
The play—part of Pacific Theatre’s series of film-related dramas—was turned into a 2004 movie starring Kevin Bacon and, in keeping with Pacific’s long-standing examination of Christian values, provides no easy answers or morals. “For an audience of the film or play, they’re particularly challenged because they’re given a man who seems, in all respects, rather decent,” says Fechter, “except that he has, in his past, done this really horrible thing. The question is, Does every person deserve a second chance? How forgiving, as a society, are we? And are there some things that are ultimately unforgivable?” 604-731-5518. Pacifictheatre.org