Fine Acting Brings ‘The Dead Boy’ to Life

Photo via Pixabay.

Joe Pintauro’s “The Dead Boy” has a troubled script and the fact that it succeeds to the level it does is only because of the strong acting of some of its cast members, most notably, Rick Prada as Francis Cardinal, and Kelly DiLorenzo as reporter Katherine McGuire. David Simson directs the show with a sure hand, making things run smoothly for the most part.

The problem here is with the script, which is why this show is so seldom produced. Based on the true story of Father Bruce Ritter, who founded Covenant House in New York City to deal with homeless and thrown-away youth who turned to sex work for survival. Ritter was accused of multiple sexual interactions with his charges, but never charged. In early drafts of the script the reporter was an ex-Seminarian, now it is a former parishioner who had a crush on Father Davis (i.e., Ritter).

Prada is by far the strongest actor, showing the conflict between doing what’s best for the church and protecting his friend. DiLorenzo makes the most out of an underwritten role, bringing in her anguish of betrayal, by the church, Father Davis, and ultimately, the Cardinal. Daniel Distasio is strong as Will Draper but doesn’t appear either young, streetwise, or thuggy enough in that role. His character makes a big deal about being straight, and then in his nude scene, he strips down to a gay boy’s shaved hairless body. His role as a young priest is not differentiated enough that we can easily tell them apart. I heard many people asking if they were supposed to be the same person. Something as simple as an accent or a toupee might help. Bob Sharkey is fine as the wise and weary parish priest, although he could raise the volume a bit.

Unfortunately, the lead actor Michael Schenker, as Father Davis, is the weak link in this production. Too often he seemed to simply be reciting his lines with no meaning behind them. We never really feel his anguish for all his speechifying. Some actors need time to settle into a role, perhaps that will happen with Schenker.

Pintauro, a former priest, approaches the story in an even-handed way. Perhaps it is Pintauro’s unwillingness to judge the priest that saps the story of its drive, but it never really goes anywhere. As a character study, the characters keep their cards too close to their chests. The other weak part is the ending. In real life, Father Bruce simply moved to upstate New York, where he died peacefully. Not very dramatic. In the play, there is a convoluted scene where the young priest and Father Davis confront each other (why?), which then morphs into Davis and Will having sex (further blurring the lines between the characters) before an overly dramatic ending.

I don’t know if anyone could produce a satisfactory conclusion to this play, which is why I opened this review by saying it has a troubled script. Empire Stage’s production is valiant and thought-provoking.

“The Dead Boy” by Joe Pintauro
Empire Stage
1140 N. Flagler Dr.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



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