Who Mourns for Bob the Goon? is a new play about a man who believes he is the obscure comic book character ‘Bob the Goon,’ a nameless Joker henchman from the Batman comics. The audience follows Bob as he attends a special therapy group for individuals who all believe they are (or were) third tier comic book characters. Bob starts to unravel after the admittance of a new woman, Langly, into the group. She causes Bob to recall his real history as a veteran coping with the psychological trauma of the Iraq War. Soon all the members of the therapy group begin to question the style of therapy they are receiving from the VA and specifically their therapist. They attempt to help Bob, who seems to suffer the hardest in accepting he was not a nameless goon killed on a heist but instead the survivor of a shooting by his commanding officer.
The play has several scenes that switch into the “comic book” worlds that some of the characters think they inhabit. These scenes are written as if they are real and actually happening, even though they exist as fantasy delusions or dreams of the characters. These fantastical realms range from Bob the Goon’s ‘Batman vs. Joker’ world to a post-apocalyptic Land of Oz (complete with munchkin zombies and Gestapo like tin-men.) Most importantly the play balances those fantasies with very real, grounded, and researched moments of characters coping with PTSD and trauma.
The central premise is that we often overlook and fail to mourn some of the people whose lives impact us the most and the play focuses on veterans who lack agency and dignity in many ways. Many people fantasize they could be the hero such as Batman or Superman, but often realize they are the supporting character in the story, not the lead.... Not the hero. For all of the characters, especially Bob, they identify with third tier characters that are not particularly heroic or villainous. And the show presupposes that the questionable therapy these men and women are receiving is an untested, perhaps unethical, version of drama therapy. Their therapist pushes them into identifying with (sometimes dangerous) characters in an attempt to prove that his experimental drama therapy can be used to heal PTSD and post war trauma. In doing so, the therapist, Jonathan, sadly misses the warning signs that traumatized people already unable to differentiate reality from fiction may not respond well to playacting as a comic book character.