By Alex Miller
Based on a series of short stories by Ron Carlson, the title alone sounds like the perfect summer blockbuster. Forget “Jaws” because “Bigfoot Stole My Wife,” and you’re next. Right? Well, yes and no. I was not as taken, so to speak, by this comedy/drama/autobiographical play as I thought I might be.
Alan Altschuler portrays himself and two other characters. Not until the third act do you realize one of those characters is Bigfoot. We are introduced to Alan, an older Jewish gentleman in his mid-to-late 60s. His blue polo shirt and brown slacks are simple enough, yet suggest the transformation he will soon make from himself to Rick and then to Bigfoot.
Alan refers to the loves of his life as Nancy. And this is resonant because we all have that one person in our romantic career who can’t compare to our first love, don’t we? When he says, “We were the last ones to use love right,” the statement stings of the poetry of love and loss, and the amalgam we turn people into because we assume this new person is “The One.” I trust Alan. I feel his pain.
Rick likes to bet on the ponies. He also happens to be the victim of Bigfoot’s machinations. Apparently, The Monster ravaged his house while Rick was away at the racetrack. And during the entire play, he suffers from textbook denial. We feel sorry for him because his subsequent stages of grief will probably be insurmountable.
As Rick, Mr. Altschuler wears a red snapback baseball cap and boasts a New Jersey accent. Rick’s house has been totally gutted. His wife is gone. His dog is gone. His Toyota is gone. “You’ve never known Bigfoot to NOT drive. Who says he can’t?” This rationalization gets one of the biggest laughs of the night. Technically, it’s true.
His house smells like a weekend at Bernie’s. And that’s all the evidence Rick needs. Yet he mentions that his wife repeatedly warned him, “One day I’m not gonna be here when you come home.” In his mind, that’s what all women say.
Bigfoot is far from what I envisioned. He looks like Panama Jack. Same straw hat with a black ribbon, but his monocle replaced by a stylish pair of glasses. I can only imagine he smells like Aqua Velva. The pretension just leaks off of him. He proudly proclaims, “I never steal women. I call and they come.” Pointing at an audience member, he says “I’ll call on your wife, sir. And she’ll come to me when I do.” Something about how casual, certain and bold Bigfoot is clues me in to the idea that he’s not a supernatural being at all. He is just Rick’s own inattention to the woman who was supposed to be the love of his life. His neglect is Bigfoot, and it has swept her away.
Interspersed throughout the play are scenes in which Alan plays a version of himself in junior high school, high school, and college. Nancy follows him throughout his life. Each time a girl breaks his heart, she passes the mantle onto the next “Nancy,” which makes each new heartbreak that much more traumatic.
Whether you believe Bigfoot to be a metaphor for the many ways a man can drive a woman away, the unbridled ego of virulent males that is more Pepe Le Pew than Boy Next Door, or a legendary woodland ape, this play doesn’t give enough stage time to the title character. Instead, it relies on a flood of others: Mom, Dad, friend’s roommate’s girlfriend, and lost loves. With a play like this, if you’re going to portray all of these people, you’d better sell it, own it, make them buy it. I didn’t get a good sense of fluidity or a wider range of voices to differentiate one from another, so I was left scratching my head. That’s not to say Mr. Altschuler isn’t a profound actor. He’s extremely good. But he’s only one man and it shows.
“Bigfoot Stole My Wife”
Written and Performed by Alan Altschuler
Sept. 15 at 6pm, Sept. 23 at 4pm, Sept. 26 at 9pm
Director: Andrew Borthwick-Leslie
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.