Good Versus Evil

Good Versus Evil

APT’s ‘Stupid Kid’ offers a lot to think about


Too bad you can’t see “Stupid Kid” without the “hard R-rated” language. But don’t let it scare you away. Playwright Sharr White’s profanity is so incessant that it has no shock value. It’s just how these people talk. And beyond it is a love story, a murder mystery, a family drama, a weird kind of twisted sitcom — and an extraordinarily creepy villain who will take you by surprise.

It’s also the first time White has granted rights to his play to an amateur company — a coup that Arkansas Public Theatre can claim proudly for years to come.

Director Joseph Farmer helmed the APT production of White’s “The Other Place” in 2015 and says he’s thrilled that the miracle of a Twitter connection with White brought “Stupid Kid” to Rogers. But he’s also proud of the play’s message — which, he says, spotlights disenfranchised people victimized by the justice system.

The premise of “Stupid Kid” is simple: Fourteen years ago, a teenager named Chick Ford was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and burying her in the back yard of his parents’ home. His parents, Gigi and Eddie, wanted to believe he was innocent, but two things convinced them he wasn’t: His confession, and the adamant opinion of Gigi’s brother Mike, who was sheriff at the time.

Now, a “bleeding heart” attorney and newly discovered DNA evidence has gotten Chick out of prison — much to his parents’ chagrin and confusion.

Gigi: “Uncle Mike says you been smart enough to make allll these people think twice about all your facts. Which I sure as hell can’t understand ‘cause I was raised to have faith in the fact that a fact was a fact. But I guess you can take all sorts of facts, stir ‘em around, have ‘em equal a completely new fact. Which I don’t know that I can have faith in anymore.”

What has ensued over the years for his parents might be nearly as troubling as the idea of a 14-year-old sent to super-max. Gigi fell into a deep depression. Eddie lost his business. They were shunned by the community. And they never, ever had contact with their son — because they believed he was a monster.

Terry Vaughan and Tim Gilster, founders of Smokehouse Players in Fayetteville, play Gigi and Eddie.

“We had just finished ‘Valentines and Killer Chili,’ and auditions were the next day,” remembers Vaughan. “But we knew we’d regret not auditioning. It’s one of the best parts out there for an old gal.”

In Vaughan’s opinion, “Stupid Kid” is a love story between Gigi and Eddie.

“The only thing that has kept them afloat is that they’ve clung to each other,” she says. “The beauty of it is that the audience doesn’t know what to feel. Who is good? Who is bad? The love for four of these characters will grow throughout the story if we do our jobs right.

“I love Gigi,” she enthuses. “She stepped away from Chick because her heart was so broken. And then she has this grand moment of realization: They’ve been played — by her older brother, someone she’s always admired, looked up to.”

Ed McClure, more often seen on the other side of the curtain, plays Uncle Mike, whom he admits is “the bad guy.”

“Maybe he set it all in motion to benefit his family,” he muses. “Then he saw an opportunity to benefit himself.”

And then there’s Chick, the hero of the piece.

“Chick is someone who grew up in a small town and was the odd kid,” says actor Tanner Pittman, most recently seen in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” “He’d gotten in trouble — just juvenile stuff. But when a crime happens in a small town, someone needs to pay — and he was an easy target.

“I identify with Chick a lot.”

Rounding out the cast are Amy Eversole as the neighbor, Franny, who serves as kind of a Greek chorus, and newcomer Mary Maxwell as Hazel, a girl that Uncle Mike has somehow been awarded custody of as her probation officer. If you need proof that Uncle Mike is a sleaze bag, Hazel is there to make it clear.

Is there a happy ending? Is justice served?

Someone dies. Someone gets success he doesn’t deserve. And a couple of people get a second chance. It’s painfully like real life.



‘Stupid Kid’

WHEN — 8 p.m. March 22-23; 2 p.m. March 24; again March 28-31

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers

COST — $22-$29

INFO — 631-8988

FYI — “Stupid Kid” is rated “R” for language.



On Video

Check out the “Stupid Kid” video on the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette channel on YouTube.

Categories: Cover Story