Stephen Cone’s latched onto explosive material in this study of a sex offender returning to the remnants of his family after twenty years in prison. But Cone’s drama inherits the strangely affectless demeanor of its central character. Onetime TV director Henry (Michael Nowak) swears the 12-year-old star of his show seduced him. Somehow this stuttering, apparently harmless man seduces his ex-wife and her new husband into letting him hang around until something better comes along. Nowak drives The Side Project’s premiere, which Cone directs; his genial bewilderment sharpens the underlying shock of his crime. Henry’s understandably reluctant to dwell on the past, but Cone lets him get away far too easily. Part of the problem is the play’s ungainly shape: the initial scene seems to repeat itself three times over, as Henry establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that a) his ex-wife wants little to do with him and b) he has nowhere else to go. As for the pervasive theme of Christian reconciliation, Henry at first doesn’t know how seriously to take it and, even at the end of the play, the audience doesn’t, either. The supporting cast get fairly one-dimensional roles to fill, and they flatten themselves to match. Deep veins of emotion lie buried in “Henry Hettinger,” as it creeps up on issues of self-knowledge, desire and deviance, but it drops every one as quickly as it gets too close. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.