Saturday, September 14, 2013

MO - St. Louis play brings sex offender debate to new stage

Lee Blessing's Lonesome Hollow
Original Article


By Jesse Bogan

ST. LOUIS - While sex offender laws continue to be debated throughout Missouri — at the state Capitol, in lawsuits and media — now comes “Lonesome Hollow,” a play about a town in the near future where sexual predators are held indefinitely.
- In the future?  The "future" is now!

The performance is billed as an exploration of how far society is willing to go to keep children safe.

Lee Blessing (Wikipedia), who wrote the play, describes the message as “sinister and disturbing, but really not that far from reality.”

Indeed, the federal government and 20 states, including Missouri, have laws on sexually violent predators that hold some offenders indefinitely in mental health facilities after they have finished prison sentences because they are deemed too likely to commit future crimes.

In the play, as in real life, there aren’t easy answers. Uncomfortable, thought-provoking questions are raised about constitutional rights and offenders who have committed heinous crimes.

But Blessing, 63, of Los Angeles, said he takes the issues further than reality in an attempt to get audiences to “think about where certain societal tendencies could lead.”

For example, nobody seems to care that medical professionals at Lonesome Hollow conduct psychological experiments on throwaway residents.

The play also questions the line between what’s considered pornography and art, and who decides.

You have both sides of the argument,” said Robert Ashton, director of the local performance. “It’s a good drama.”

The play will be the West End Players Guild première of its 103rd season.

If the first full rehearsal was any indication Wednesday night, audiences won’t know what to think when it’s over. Each character is flawed and goes too far, including a sexual predator who will clearly reoffend if freed from the fictitious town.

Beth Graveman, one of five actors in the play, assured that “nothing like this has been done in St. Louis.”

But she doesn’t expect her family to attend this one. There is adult content, and it’s a challenging topic.

It’s obviously not light entertainment, but it is thought-provoking,” said actor Mark Abels.

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