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Prince Gomolvilas on “Mysterious Skin” opening at EWP

September 9, 2010

Prince Gomolvilas

Prince Gomolvilas says he based his play “Mysterious Skin” on Scott Heim’s novel of the same name. “I’m notorious for not reading novels. I love nonfiction, but I have a harder time getting through novels. I had read an interview with Scott and the story about possible alien abduction really intrigued me. I was so deeply moved by the book and remembered many years later when I was looking for my next project.”  

The story is about two boys who experienced a shared event when they were younger. “They have very disparate reactions to it and the event has affected them in very different ways. One is very traumatized by it; the other interprets the event as a positive thing and that remains a question at the end of the play.” 

It’s not a spoiler alert to say it’s about a possible alien abduction. “The book and the play really have to do with repressed memory,” says Gomolvilas. “The spoiler alert would have to do with what the actual event is.”

The two boys don’t meet until Act II. They’re now 18, ten years older than when their shared event occurred.  “Our lead character, Brian, who’s kind of a nerdy guy, goes on an investigation to find out if it was in fact aliens that were responsible for the blackouts he experienced when he was 8. The two boys are reunited as a result of a series of dreams that Brian has. He keeps seeing this other boy with him inside an alien space ship. He comes to believe that this boy was abducted with him. In the dream, both are in their little league uniforms. He makes it out to the chamber of commerce and finds an old team photograph and discovers the boy in his dreams is actually in the photograph. He’s able to track down the boy’s name and goes after him.”

It’s 1991 – Facebook wasn’t yet invented. 

This is the play’s Los Angeles premiere. It’s been staged in San Francisco and Orange County. And it’s not for the faint of heart. “There is a violent sexual act perpetrated at the end of Act I. It’s not salacious or sexy at all – it’s very disturbing,” Gomolvilas says. “The question always in a violent scene where there’s force and blood, is how much do you show? How much do you leave to an audience’s imagination? How much can you get away with without turning off the audience while giving them enough to fill in the horror of the situation? I think we struck a good balance to get the audience to a deep emotional level.”

Director, Tim Dang

In fact, Act I ends quite provocatively, courtesy of director Tim Dang who’s also East West Players’ Artistic Director. “He has the actor recovering from this traumatic event and crawling off stage, half-naked, after the house lights have come up. It happens in full lights and the audience doesn’t really know whether it’s the start of intermission and whether they should clap. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but we ran it through and it’s so moving and jarring and disorienting – and real – that it really works.” 

When it paralyzes the playwright, Gomolvilas says, “It works. It’s really uncomfortable. It’s not what I want to watch and applaud, but I sure do react.”

“Mysterious Skin” – Previews begin Thursday, September 9; opens Sept. 15 and runs through October 10, 2010. Mature audiences only. Wed-Sat 8pm, Sundays 2pm. $20 general; $12 students. Various discounts and show time changes here. This is EWP’s 45th season.

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