Theatre Review: 'Meat Puppet'

The obscurely titled Meat Puppet is the story of four characters who find themselves tangled in a web of lies, ambition, and (social) media. Online, “meat puppet” refers to a person deliberately sent in to change or disrupt the goings on in online forums and chats.

The play is loosely based on an episode of Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator after which Louis Conradt committed suicide when the organization Perverted Justice found evidence that he was having sexually explicit chats with someone who identified themselves as a thirteen year-old boy.

In exploring the themes that come to the surface from To Catch a Predator, Meat Puppet asks whether we have gone too far with reality TV, voyeurism, greed, and cynicism.

It was the changes to the Dateline plot that contributed to the problems of this play. Davis, the character loosely based on Conradt, is shot by a vigilante mother who believes that the man has abused her son.

This change in the story may seem subtle enough, but taken together with some of the play’s other shortcomings, the shift is seen as problematic by this reviewer. The mother shoots Davis because her son Clay tells her that Davis has abused him, a confession that later turns out to be a lie – a lie that the audience is told to believe for too long.

When looking back after the reveal it isn’t believable that Clay was lying as he was so convincing. So, when his lie is treated as unproblematic (doing it just for the attention!) Clay’s actions align with false accusation stereotype that keeps victims of sexual abuse silent. In the end, the boy is vilified, not the perpetrators of sexual abuse, and the misinformed vigilante mother is responsible for the death, not the real-life guilt of Conradt.

This play sends a very troubling message about the testimony of abuse survivors, and not the kind of troubling that makes you think and feel differently about the issue. It also non-ironically takes swipes at fat people for no apparent artistic reason.

The performances, staging, and direction were all very strong and had the play had enough thematic coherence these actors would’ve delivered.

However, Meat Puppet tries to do too many things at once. If it is a play about going too far in the media, then Chuck the reporter should have been the main character and the extraneous details of the boy’s life, and the flirting with the police officer should have been left out.

Chuck’s downfall is the believable and interesting social criticism that the play should have accomplished. But, since it also tried to deal with homophobia, the psychology of abuse survivors, tragic ambition, and the rise of social media it ends up doing none of these things very well.

Two stars out of five.

more in Theatre Review     |     posted Jan 20th, 2011 at 11:48am     

Comments: 1

andyjm wrote:

Two things:

1: This production hasn't opened yet - is this a review of a preview? Poor form. Or perhaps this is a draft I'm commenting on, which will be tuned up and polished ever-so-slightly before publication? Of course, that would be ridiculous, because this is available to the general public - unlike the preview you apparently attended.

2: Why write a review if you're going to reveal what happens? If you can't come up with a required word-count for a future review, please just scrap it and start over, don't ruin the show for someone who might want to go see it.

on Jan 20th, 2011 at 4:11pm Report Abuse

Post comment: (Login or Register)

All Content Copyright © SEE Magazine 2008 About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Contest Disclaimer