Even Hitler had a girlfriend.
What did she see in that guy, anyway?
The central villain in The Last Days of Mickey & Jean, a comedy that runs through Oct. 9 at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township, is not in the same league as the Nazi despot.
Still, most girls wouldn’t bring Mickey home to meet the folks–unless they were plotting to collect the $2 million bounty on his head.
Mickey, as created by playwright Richard Dresser and interpreted by actor Duncan Rogers, is a stand-in for James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr.
The alleged Boston mobster, now 81, has been charged with 19 murders. Bulger and his longtime girlfriend were arrested in June after 16 years on the run. They were featured so many times on America’s Most Wanted, they should have been listed as co-hosts.
While it alters a few biographical details, The Last Days of Mickey & Jean tries to imagine life on the lam for these two. How could any couple survive in such close proximity for so long without killing each other?
Most of the play unfolds in a Paris hotel room, with the paranoid Mickey constantly peering out the window while Jean (Bev Sheehan) exhorts him to visit the “Louv-ra” with her.
Convinced he is dying, Mickey reluctantly sees a doctor (one of Oliver Wadsworth’s three characters) who reaches a quick diagnosis:
Doctor: You mean to say you’re on an open-ended holiday with your wife? Have you a death wish?
Mickey: Is that what’s wrong with me?
Doctor: Obviously! At home we can escape our loved ones, but on holiday we’re trapped… Is it any wonder you’re at death’s door?
Later, Mickey breaks the news to Jean. They just need to find a place to settle down, he says.
“Oh, you mean like a real couple?” Jean asks.
“Yes!” Mickey agrees. “And not see so much of each other.”
Complications arise when Jean meets another South Boston ex-pat named Bobby (Oliver Wadsworth, with an off- again, on-again chow-da accent) who starts paying attention to her. Mickey’s moral shortcomings, meanwhile, are underscored when he dallies with a scene-stealing transvestite named Tinsel (Oliver again, looking much beefier than the mousy Bobby).
The briskly paced script spends little time decoding Mickey’s murderous motivations. It’s really Jean’s show. Bev Sheehan brings spunk and grit to the role. Her Jean has sparkle, personality and a big heart.
So why has Jean given it to a cold-blooded killer? Is love really that blind?
When she laments the simple pleasures she has forsaken for the older Mickey, you almost feel sorry for her. Almost.
Which brings us back to Hitler. What makes bad boys so irresistible to some women?
That’s what I kept wondering throughout The Last Days of Mickey & Jean, which has an interesting back-story of its own. The play took shape last year at the Merrimack Rep in Lowell, Mass., was rewritten and tested at the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey in Madison and was refined further during a run at the Old Castle Theatre in Bennington, Vermont.
The result is not a knee-slapping comedy. Rather, it’s a clever piece that mines the headlines for nuggets about relationships. The dialogue is crisp and capably delivered by three pros. Local drama fans should be well-acquainted with Duncan Rogers–this marks his 12th production at the Bickford, where he directed Richard Dresser’s baseball comedy, Rounding Third.
In real life, Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend is standing by her man. (So far, anyway.) Will Jean stand by Mickey? You’ll have to catch The Last Days of Mickey & Jean to find out.
It’s too much to ask any playwright to answer the “bad boys” question–which, after all, has confounded everyone from Shakespeare to Mel Brooks.
But this Bickford production is guaranteed to make for a telling ride home with your significant other.
The Last Days of Mickey & Jean plays at the Bickford Theatre, 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morris Township, on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m., Oct. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 9 at 2 p.m.. Tickets cost $20-$40. Order online or call 973-971-3706.
What makes bad boys so irresistible to some women?