Review: A tale of revenge and despair: “BecauseHeCan” offers solid plot, suspenseful atmosphere

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Student actor Dejuan Boyd plays out a scene from the play “BecauseHeCan” as character Costa Astrakhan. The play focuses on computer hacking, identity theft and the potential consequences of such crimes. Photo by Kelly Daniels

By David Hurtado

Student actor Dejuan Boyd plays out a scene from the play
“BecauseHeCan” as character Costa Astrakhan. The play focuses on computer hacking, identity theft and the potential consequences of such crimes. Photo by Kelly Daniels

Your bank account is empty, dark secrets from your past are exposed and a malicious hacker is set on shattering your life. This is the tale of “BecauseHeCan.”

Out of all the school plays I have seen, “BecauseHeCan” is probably one of the better ones. Story-wise, the plot unfolds in a manner worthy of George Orwell with a cast of characters that aptly compliments the dark nature of the play.

“BecauseHeCan” centers on newlyweds Joseph Elliot (Sam Holder) and Joanne Summerhays Elliot (Lauren Hambleton). Their lives are upended by sinister computer hacker Costa Astrakhan (Dejuan Boyd). Astrakhan, who operates under the alias ISeeU, desires revenge upon Joseph for kicking him out of his writing class.

The play opens in a warehouse in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, with Joseph being interrogated by Secret Service agents Orin Slake (Amanda Carter) and Dennis McAlvane (Erik Meixelsperger). This was one of two scenes I took issue with.

In this scene, Joseph is sitting under a single bulb like in classic spy thrillers, bombarded with nonsensical questions about names and aliases. Not to be nitpicky, but I felt like I was watching the protagonists of “The X-Files” meets “CSI: Miami” played out in a cliché manner.

It didn’t help that McAlvane and Slake resemble younger versions of Mulder and Scully from “The X-Files.”

Apart from that, “BecauseHeCan” kept me rooted to my seat with its captivating plot and solid performances from the actors. The characters were well-developed to the point where I wasn’t watching a play; I was observing segments from the lives of real, breathing people.

All of this was further compounded with occasional interjections into the main action of the play from Astrakhan. Right off the bat, he comes across as egotistical, power hungry and downright insane. Astrakhan, through these sequences, illustrates perfectly the overarching theme of the play: absolute power corrupts absolutely.

By the time the story comes to a close, the Elliots’ lives have been utterly devastated to the point of no return through Astrakhan’s usurping of their identities. Joseph has been accused of committing numerous sex crimes against children, with surmounting evidence stacked against him. Joanne, meanwhile, finds herself remade into a porn star through pictures showing her with multiple men at a hotel.

Perhaps I’m overanalyzing here, but wouldn’t it be a simple matter for Joanne to verify the hotel’s records to prove she is innocent? Hotels usually keep guest records for years, if not decades because of tax requirements. Or if Astrakhan has falsified those records as well, couldn’t law enforcement officials interview the individuals from the pictures?

The same could be said for Joseph. Did the federal investigators even bother interviewing the kids he allegedly had sex with, or did they just see the doctored video and think, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” By now, I thought Astrakhan was finished with the Elliots. As it turned out, he had a few final surprises up his sleeve.

Furthering his revenge, Astrakhan falsifies records to show he is the son of Joseph and his first wife. In addition to stealing their identities, Astrakhan drains the couple’s bank account, leaving them penniless.

When the curtain fell (figuratively speaking), I departed the theatre with my mind in a state of content. Hollywood directors may have special effects and a hefty budget at their disposal, but that can’t compare to forging a personal connection between the audience and actors.

Yes, Michael Bay, I’m looking at you.

Contact David Hurtado, features editor, at dhurtado@jccc.edu.

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