Review: ‘Leaves of Words’ explores teen’s disappearance

Playwright Tim Macy’s new work “Leaves of Words,” performed by English Alternative Theatre, is a fictional work based on the true story of missing teenager Randy Leach.

Macy, a Kansas University graduate student in English, tells this story through the frantic and volatile thoughts of Randy’s father, aptly using his anger, fear, frustration and hope to weave a story that is necessarily complex and nonlinear.

Randy Leach disappeared from a pre-graduation party near Linwood on April 15, 1988. After years of investigation and silence from those who were with Randy that night, it is still unknown whether he is even still alive. Only theories and speculation linger, forever haunting Randy’s beleaguered father.

Director Paul Stephen Lim used all the elements of good theater to bring this play to life. The music, choreography, acting and stage movement work well together, creating a powerful vortex of human emotion, which draws the audience in and doesn’t let go.

Jeremy Auman is a good choice to play the demanding role of Randy’s father. As the primary character and narrator of the story, he is the focal point of the show. His strong stage presence and magnetic demeanor successfully seduce the audience into his character’s mindset, a necessity for this play to work.

Lim has selected a cast of talented young actors to play the roles of Randy and his friends. In his college stage debut, Garret Michael Kelly plays 17-year-old Randy Leach. His character perfectly encompasses a father’s ideal image of his son: considerate, naÃive, idealistic and confused.

This is the first EAT production for supporting actresses Whitney Rowland and Mackenzie Wiglesworth. Each brings a youthful energy to the myriad characters they play, and each reveals a sinister understanding of the mob mentality that overcomes Randy’s peers in several of the scenes.

Colin Elliot and Dylan Walker, who also play several roles, each move effortlessly from one persona to another. They created characters that conform to a father’s stereotypical idea of delinquent teenagers, which is important in a show that revolves entirely around the feelings of one man.

This show is rife with accusations and bias, a fact that did not escape the attention of both cast and crew.

Much of the show’s heart lies in the strong statements made by the father about the incompetence of the law enforcement and the lack of help from Randy’s peers. Playwright Macy made sure that this was a centerpiece of the story – something that may not sit well with some audience members. This controversial facet gives an edge to the play, making it personal and not just another anonymous missing-person story.

Don’t expect “Leaves of Words” to solve any mysteries – or to have a happy ending. This well-written and well-performed show, however, gives a brief and powerful glimpse into the mind of a frantic father trying to come to terms with the fact that he may never again see his son.