The initial concept of Joshua Young’s Who Mourns for Bob the Goon? is intriguing enough in and of itself to entice the audience into its labyrinthine plot: Bob (Alex Teachy) believes that he is Bob the Goon, one of the Joker’s henchmen from 1989’s Batman. Bob, a former military photographer, has PTSD and is in a support group populated by other former members of the military who also have PTSD and who also believe themselves to be third-tier comic book characters. The group is run by an experimental psychologist who engages the group in a kind of role-playing therapy. The group is thrown into turmoil with the more or less forced entry of Langly (Alicia Goranson). Langly is not an odd duck simply because she believes herself to be an anime character rather than one from a comic book, but also because she begins to question the motives of the group therapist (John Carhart) and the origins of the group’s various alter egos.
The heart of the play is in the right place, but, though the concept is interesting, one wonders if such serious subject matter as PTSD and serious mental health issues is not handled somewhat irresponsibly here. Through its several key twists and turns, the point of the story goes a bit wayward. And, as the ideas are dramatically complicated with the particular ways that the plot here complicates them, the references to the harsh reality beyond the stage seem increasingly trivialized and irrelevant.
Infused as it is, in more ways than one, with comic book themes, Bob the Goon is greatly bolstered by some strong set-work consisting mostly of shifting background projections that are well constructed. The costume design, though frugal, is clever, appropriate, and just enough to add to the comic-paneled textures of the play. There is some surprisingly nice puppet work that adds another dimension to the overall piece, especially in bringing to life the delusional fantasies of the main character.
Although everything gets a bit awkward towards the end, and there is a final monologue that feels uncomfortably contrived, and though it may be slightly irresponsible in its whimsy, Who Mourns for Bob the Goon? is yet an interesting and entertaining package that holds up for discussion some intriguing and timely issues. Taken in in a bubble, it would be a highly diverting piece and as exciting as your average comic book; for good or ill, however, Bob the Goon punches constantly against the bubble that it has blown around itself. As a dramatic thought-piece, it is much fun, but as a comment on real world problems it is frustratingly detached and devoid of any true substance -- which would be fine if it didn’t seem to strive so very hard towards the contrary.