‘After All’: A powerful look at bullying, redemption

Tina Chilip and Zachary Booth in A. Rey Pamatmat's "After All The Terrible Things I do." Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Tina Chilip and Zachary Booth in A. Rey Pamatmat’s “After All The Terrible Things I do.” Photo: T. Charles Erickson

BOSTON — We all know how bullying in its many forms can have horrifying effects on the victim — we have long known that — but is there also price to pay for the perpetrator?

When the victim of the person who did the bullying suffers terrible consequences down the road, does the guilt and regret also make the perpetrator a victim in the process?
And are there deeds we commit so foul that we should not even seek forgiveness, or expect it?
They are all questions posed in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “After All the Terrible Things I Do,” a craftily and skillfully constructed play by playwright A. Rey Pamatmat, whose work is being simultaneously presented in two different areas of the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, as Company One is also performing “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” at the Calderwood’s Deane Hall.

Zachary Booth and Tini Chilip in "After All The Terrible Things I do." Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

Zachary Booth and Tini Chilip in “After All The Terrible Things I do.” Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

As the piece opens, Daniel (Zachary Booth) is rehearsing the answers to questions he expects to get during a job interview with Linda (Tina Chilip), the Filipina owner of a small independent bookstore in a Midwestern town not named.
Daniel is a writer in his 20’s returning to his hometown after college to both work and write. The title for “After All” is taken from a Frank O’Hara poem, and indeed Daniel is quite taken with O’Hara, a gay writer and poet, and charts a course according to O’Hara’s writings, but appears to lack the confidence in his own writing ability.
The interview is awkward at first but things warm up nicely as Daniel reveals he has warm memories of time spent reading books in her store, and asks if she remembers him.
Along the way Daniel reveals he is gay and Linda is solicitous with Daniel, warning him not to reveal too much in subsequent interviews because other people might not be so understanding.
Daniel is recovering from a disastrous relationship with his father and a failed love affair and seeks the peace and quiet of the bookstore combined with a return home to his mother.
Linda is alone. Her son was the victim of bullies, and a broken marriage the result of the tragedy, and her bookstore is her life.
Events bring Daniel and Linda ever closer together. Guards will be let down and secrets will be revealed — so much so that everything will be turned on its head and everything you thought you knew was wrong.
Through Linda and Daniel’s experiences will float some ideas about bullying that some may find shocking and offensive.
Director Peter DuBois, the actors and Pamatmat’s powerful dialogue make sure that each revelation, each twist and turn in the piece, builds upon itself, ratcheting up the tension.
They say that confession is good for the soul, and there will be confessions and forgiveness sought, and ultimately granted.
Perhaps — given all that has gone on up until that point — the ending might be a little too pat, too optimistic, in suggesting that there is forgiveness and redemption to be found no matter what the deed.
Clint Ramos’ bookstore design is painstaking and handsomely detailed; the bookstore is a warm, welcoming place, just like you might imagine in a mid-sized Midwestern town. Ramos takes similar care with the costumes, which are also en pointe.
“After All The Terrible Things I Do” is engrossing, provocative and a revelation for those of us meeting Pamatmat for the first time. I expect to make the trip upstairs to Company One see what’s he’s got in store for me up there.
The Huntington Theatre Company production of A. Rey Pamatmat‘s “After All The Terrible Things I Do.” Directed by Peter DuBois Set and costumes, Clint Ramos. Sound, M.L. Dogg. Lights, Lap Chi Chu. At: Wimberly Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through June 21. http://www.huntingtontheatre.com.