What it's about
A teenage girl is murdered in the cornfield in Milton, Nebraska. Everyone grieves and moves forward in their own ways. But everybody has different reactions when, ten years later, the killer, Bobbie Clearly, is released out of prison, moves back into town, and wants to sign up for the talent show memorial of his victim.
This article will become serious like three paragraphs in, I swear, I just want to gush about the presentation of this for a little bit first.
I have never seen a play quite like this one. The entire show is presented as though the characters are being interviewed as part of a PBS documentary. Even the events of the play are staged in such a way, and paced in such a way, to imply the idea that these events are being filmed as part of the film. The choices of when to announce the intermissions don't feel quite like theater intermission points, but like the end of episodes while we wait for the follow-up, or even like an actual point where a commercial break would be placed before the documentary continued.
I have to say that it took me a long time to really write about this. If I had to really describe my greatest impression of this show? Confusion. I felt like at every singular moment of this show I was more and more confused, but more and more invested. Every character was a fascinating little universe of their own, and I practically wanted to see a new play about each character. I wanted to know where they went after this, as people, almost. But I was also confused because I could feel that there was a point to the show, but I couldn't grasp what. Like a good show, it kept me guessing the entire time. Some people thought that Bobby deserved another chance, others thought he was unfit to return, and others were undecided. And, at the end, someone hurts Bobby, he ruins himself, and everyone expectedly turns on him.
Bobby's ending is a sad one, he is sent up to a facility upstate for people who "can't live in the world properly." Then the big final line was dropped, and I've been waiting a few days for the full click to happen, but I finally figured out what I took from the show. First, the line:
I wonder often where I am going to be in a few years. I will be the first to admit that I've been through a lot. I've talked about a lot of it over the articles I've written. I almost feel like I could string together paragraphs from my blogs from some of these shows to write an abridged biography. And there's a lot I haven't talked about here, in spite of being viscerally reminded of them during the shows I've seen. And I can't talk about those things, I just can't bring myself to think about them, cause they're not done. But, among these issues, I always wonder–
What's going on with my friends? I've cultivated this friend group that just... fuck man, none of us are "normal" fucking human beings. And I wonder sometimes how much I contribute to that. I fight my fights, but when I'm with my friends, am I helping them fight the battles their fighting, the way they're helping me?
I watch my friends press onward the way they do, and I see some of them get better, and some get worse, and some rollercoaster wildly. And I wonder where in all that improbable calculus I fit. Or if I fit at all. And if I'm a neutral contributor not shifting the balance one way or the other, I wonder who it is for them. Who picks them up, who drops them to the wolves, who just watches them shake unhealthily like a newborn. Bobbie Clearly had a specific effect on me, while I was on the train going home.
I found myself looking at every person on the train and wondering what was rattling around in their heads. Were they going somewhere happy? Were they about to confront something in their life? Suddenly, I was hyper aware of this thought process that has always been part of my code, this wonder of what every person I ever see is thinking or feeling or dreaming.
I get the sense sometimes that maybe I don't function in the world as best I could. I wonder whose fault that was.
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